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Lithuania Facts, Population & People | Where is Lithuania?

Instructor: Natasha Deveau

Natasha taught English as a Second Language for five years. They have a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from St. Mary's University in Halifax, NS, Canada and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Concordia University of Texas in Austin, Tx, US. They also have a diploma for Teaching English as a Second Language from St. Mary's University in Halifax, NS, Canada.

Learn about Lithuania and its location along with facts, population, and people. Discover a map of Lithuania and the capital of this Eastern European Baltic state. Updated: 09/22/2022

The History of Lithuania: An Overview

Around 2000 BC, the Balts, a group of people who are described as the ancestors of the Lithuanian people, arrived in what is now known as Lithuania. In the middle of the 13th century, a man named Mindaugas unified several Lithuanian tribes to protect the country against the Germans who threatened to take over some of their lands. Mindaugas and his family were accepted into Europe's hierarchy because they converted to Christianity and were baptized. Therefore, in 1251, Mindaugas was named king of Lithuania by Pope Innocent IV. Control of the country was maintained, and the Germans were successfully held at bay for the time being. However, in 1263, Mindaugas and his two sons were assassinated because they had converted back to Paganism which influenced the countries religion until the 14th century.

Then from 1270 to 1282, Traidenis ruled Lithuania. Following Traidenis' rule, Gediminas ruled from 1315 to approximately 1342, when he died. During the reign of these two rulers, Lithuanian lands expanded. While the country did not have the manpower to maintain control over the lands they expanded into, they were able to maintain their control through political skill, religious tolerance, and intermarriage with royalty.

Gediminas had seven sons. He divided his kingdom between them, but the seven rulers would not cooperate with one another. After an internal conflict tore them apart, only two of his sons maintained control of the empire. The first son was Algirdas. He was given the title of Great Prince and maintained affairs in the east, including in the country's capital. The second son was Kestutis. The Teutonic Order was always a threat to the country, so Kestutis' main obligation was to protect them against the Teutonic Order's threats and hostility. In 1377, Algirdas died. He gave responsibility for ruling the country to his eldest son Jogaila. However, relations between Jogaila and Kestutis, his uncle, were tumultuous. In 1381, Kestutis usurped Jogaila and assumed the title of Great Prince, but Jogaila would fight back. The next year he captured and killed Kestutis and imprisoned his son, Vytautas, who eventually escaped and joined the Teutonic Order. During this time the German threat continued to increase.

A short while later, Jogaila and his other ruling family members had a decision to make. His family in the East Slav regions wanted to align with Moscow, but those in the core lands wished to align Lithuania with Poland. Ultimately, it was Jogaila's decision, and on August 14, 1385, an agreement between Poland and Jogaila's realm was reached. He would marry the 12-year-old Polish Queen, Jadwiga. Roman Christianity was formally introduced to Lithuania by Jogaila in 1387 as part of the agreement with Poland. Since the Teutonic Order was created to defend Christianity, and Lithuanians were now being baptized, the Teutonic Order became unnecessary. By 1410, the joint Polish-Lithuanian army had significantly reduced the German threat. Once there was little need for the Teutonic army, Jogaila and his nephew, Vytautas, reconciled. Vytautas the Great ruled Lithuania until his death in 1430.


Poland-Lithuanian Commonwealth coat of arms.

an image of the coat of arms of the Poland-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It contains four quadrants. The top left and bottom right quadrants contain griffins. The tope right and bottom left quadrants contain knights atop their horses. A crown rests on top of the crest.


Lithuania continued to expand closer to Moscow, and in 1480, Ivan III, Grand Prince of Moscow, was given the title of supreme ruler of all the Russian states. This became Lithuania's new immediate threat, as Ivan III staked his claim in many places. This included states that were currently a part of Lithuania, like Kiev. The struggles between Lithuania and Moscow continued throughout the following two centuries. However, in 1569, Poland and Lithuania decided to solidify their union and created the Commonwealth of Two Peoples. The two countries maintained their state structures, laws, and military, but they elected a joint sovereign. Joining forces gave Lithuania the momentum it needed to become more like the Polish population. This was accomplished by the end of the 17th century.

During the 18th century, the political power of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth declined and much of the lands fell under Russian rule. After World War I, Lithuania declared its independence. However, in 1940, Russia, one of the 15 countries that were a part of the USSR at the time, annexed Lithuania. This meant that Russia, a transcontinental country, was claiming Lithuania as part of their territory by appropriation. At this time, Lithuania was forced to become part of the Soviet empire, which is the political term used to describe the dominancy of Communist Russia in the twentieth century. Most countries, including the United States, did not acknowledge this take over as legitimate.

Finally, in 1990, Lithuania was able to declare their independence once again. They were one of the first Soviet republics to do so. Nevertheless, it took Russia until September 1991 to recognize Lithuania's independence, and Russian troops remained in the country until 1993. Then in 2004, Lithuania joined both NATO, a security alliance known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the EU, the European Union, a partnership between 27 European countries. The country also became a member of the euro zone in 2015 and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2018.

Where is Lithuania?

Lithuania is located in Northeastern Europe. Lithuania is bordered by four countries. It is found between Latvia in the north and Russia in the southwest. Poland also lies in the southwest. The fourth country, Belarus, is located in the east and south. The Baltic Sea also borders Lithuania in the west. Some of the major cities, not including the capital, include Kaunas, Klaipeda, and Siauliai.


Map of Lithuania.

A gray map. It outlines the country of Lithuania and its counties.


A detailed map showing Lithuania and its cities along with the surrounding counties and the Baltic Sea.

A map of Lithuania and the surrounding countries of Poland, Russia, Latvia, and Belarus as well as the Baltic Sea. It also shows the capital Vilnius as well as the major cities and some minor cities. The map color is mainly tan.


The Capital of Lithuania

The capital of Lithuania is Vilnius. It is the largest city in Lithuania and hosts approximately 540,000 people. The culture in the city is vibrant. It has plenty of urban green spaces and urban street art and murals. It is quite compact, which makes the city walkable. Vilnius' Medieval Old Town is a UNESCO heritage site, which means it is a place inscribed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization list because it has "outstanding universal value." It is one of the largest and most well-kept sites in Eastern Europe.

Vilnius was not always considered the capital of Lithuania. The country has existed since the tenth century, but Vilnius was only named the capital city in 1323 by the Grand Duke Gediminas. In 1377, Teutonic Knights obliterated the city. It took some time to rebuild; however, in 1387, it was given the right to govern itself, and the first Roman Catholic bishopric was founded. The city thrived and opened a printing press in 1525 and a Jesuit academy in 1579.

Unfortunately, the city would not continue on its prosperous path as Lithuania's capital. From 1655 to 1660 the city was occupied by the Tsardom of Russia. Then, in 1702, it was conquered by Sweden. Russia once again claimed Vilnius in 1795 during the Third Partition of Poland. In 1812, Napoleonic France had taken over. Germany also staked their claim during both World War I and World War II and the city was severely damaged during them. Then, Vilnius became a part of Poland in 1920. In 1939, Soviet troops recovered Vilnius and it once again became Lithuania's capital city. However, the Soviets decided to annex Lithuania. It took until 1991, but Lithuania is again recognized as an independent country and Vilnius is restored as its capital city.

Demographics of Lithuania

The demographics, which is statistical data about a population or a group within that population, of Lithuania show the country's characteristics. Lithuania's demographics will be explored further in the following categories including population, ethnicity, language, religion, and economics.

Population

The current Lithuanian population is 2,683,546 (2022 est.). Lithuanian people aged 25 to 54 years old make up the greatest proportion of the population at 38.96% (2020 est.) and have a sex ratio of 1:1 (2022 est.). The median age of the population is 44.5 years old (2020 est.). The birth rate in Lithuania is 9.26 births per 1000 population. This low birth rate is a main reason for the population growth rate being -1.04% (2022 est.). Another factor could also be the dependency ratio, which is quite high at 56.5 (2020 est.). This represents the total number of youth and elderly dependents.

Ethnic Groups

People who reside in Lithuania are called Lithuanians even though only 84.6% of the population is ethnically considered Lithuanian. Other ethnicities in Lithuania include 6.5% Polish, 5% Russian, 1% Belarusian, 1.1% other, and 1.8% unspecified (2021 est.).

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Lithuania part of Russia?

Lithuania is currently an independent country. However, at one time the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania. Therefore, at one point in time it was forced to be a Russian territory.

What is Lithuania known for?

Lithuania is well known for its UNESCO World Heritage site. It is located in Medieval Old Town in the capital city of Vilnius.

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