July 6 – Coronation of Mindaugas as King of Lithuania (1253)
August 15 – Assumption Day
November 1 – All Saints’ Day
December 25-26 – Christmas
Current Information about Lithuania’s Economy
Monetary policy is based on a currency board. The national currency, the Litas, has been stable since 1994. The Bank of Lithuania re-pegged the Litas from the U.S. dollar to the euro on 2 February 2002 at a fixed rate of 3.4528 Litas to one euro. Lithuania expects to become a member of the European Monetary Union.
Since the restoration of Independence in 1990, significant changes have taken place in Lithuania. In a relatively brief period, Lithuania made remarkable progress in creating a market economy. The main precondition for economic growth and prosperity was the creation of macroeconomic stability in the country.
Lithuania has been named as one of the most successful economies in the entire EU. Experts and analysts at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, the Economist Intelligence Unit (the research subdivision of “The Economist” magazine), the European Commission, and other institutions have observed that Lithuania maintains exceptional economic progress, based on macro stability and economic flexibility. A flexible product and labour market, as well as strong international trade, have laid the foundation for Lithuania’s success.
Economic reforms in Lithuania have resulted in one of the highest economic growth rates among the ten EU Member States, which joined the EU together in 2004.
At the end of year 2011, annual inflation stood at 4.1 per cent. The central bank estimates that the inflation rate would make up 2.7% in 2012 and reach 3.1% the next year, compared with 1.2 % in 2010 and 1.3% in 2009 (still a vast improvement over the 11.1% reached in 2008).
As of 31 December 2011, cumulative Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Lithuania amounted to EUR 10.7 billion (LTL 37,1 billion). From the beginning of the year, it increased by LTL 1,6 billion (or 4.5 %). FDI per capita amounted to EUR 3 364 on average (as of 31 December 2010, EUR 3 174). The increase in cumulative FDI was determined by the rising income from joint-stock and reinvestment flows.
The largest investment was made by Swedish – EUR 1 662,7 million (15.4% of total FDI), Polish – EUR 1 240,5 million (11.5%), German – EUR 1121,7 million (10.4%), Dutch – EUR 947,8 million (8.8%) investors. Direct investment from EU-27 countries amounted to EUR 8 097 million (75.2% of total FDI), from CIS countries – EUR 769.4 million (7.1%).
As of 31 December 2011, the largest investment was made in manufacturing – 29.8%, financial and insurance enterprises – 14.2%, wholesale and retail trade – 13.5%, real estate activities enterprises – 11.2%, information and communication enterprises – 9.3% of total FDI.
Foreign Trade Policy:
Lithuania pursues a liberal foreign trade policy, which has resulted in the rapid growth of foreign trade turnover. Major export positions are mineral products, means of transport, textiles and textile articles, machinery and equipment, and chemicals. The country imports primarily investment goods and raw materials. The largest trade partners are the EU countries.
In 2011 exports totaled EUR 20,2 billion and increased by 28.9% in comparison to the year 2010. Lithuanian imports in 2011 totaled EUR 22,6 billion and increased by 28.2% in comparison to the year 2010.
Major Business Partners:
27 EU countries make up more than half of Lithuanian foreign trade flows (61,6% export, 57,4% import), and three-quarters of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Lithuania.
Neighbouring countries: Russia (6.6% of FDI), Poland (11.5% of total FDI), Estonia (4.5% of FDI), Latvia (2.9% of total FDI).
Drivers of Investment and Bilateral trading:
A crossroads of Central and Western Europe, the Scandinavian and Baltic countries as well as CIS markets
Political stability and economic freedom
A well-developed EU prime transport centre (two international corridors, ice-free seaport, international airports and railways)
Diverse energy capacities
A strong knowledge economy platform, innovative businesses
One of the EU’s most educated, multilingual people
Competitive business set-up and operating costs
EU’s Structural Funds’ and State’s support(approx. 7 billion EUR in 2007-2013)
Attractive business sectors
Energy:well developed infrastructure and international projects
ICT: modern knowledge economy; companies leading among the Baltic States
Shared services and business process outsourcing (BPO) – well-educated multilingual labour pool
Lasers: globally acknowledged production and inventions
Biotech: production does not have equivalents in Central and Eastern Europe
Plastics: three huge leading plants in the region
Metal processing, machinery and electric equipment: widely acknowledged high-tech products
Furniture & wood processing:among the most important suppliers for IKEA
Textile & clothing: one of the most specialised EU countries in the textile and clothing sector
Food: internationally acknowledged and in-demand production
Real estate: the largest market among the Baltic States with great development potential
Tourism: untouched ecological countryside, well developed rural tourism network, high demand for entertainment services; forthcoming events of international importance in Lithuania
Free Economic Zones:
Lithuania’s two free economic zones are located in economically important centres of the country and provide extremely favourable conditions for developing business activities by offering prepared industrial sites with physical and/or legal infrastructure, support services, and tax incentives.
Incentives in Lithuania’s Free Economic Zones include:
No corporate tax for the first 6 years and a 50% corporate tax reduction for the following 10 years (applicable for investments exceeding EUR 1 million)
No real estate taxes
No tax on dividends for foreign investors
The Klaipėda Free Economic Zone (FEZ), strategically located near the ice-free seaport, an airport, motorway, and a rail network, combines FEZ incentives with industrial parks and the advantages of logistic centres. The entire necessary infrastructure is already installed on site. Investors have a ready access to water, electricity, natural gas, and telecommunication resources.
For more information on the Klaipėda FEZ please visit www.fez.lt
The Kaunas FEZ is strategically located in the centre of Lithuania at the intersection of the Via Baltica, the European priority transport corridor, connecting Helsinki, St Petersburg, and Warsaw, and the East-West highway linking the seaport of Klaipėda with Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. It is also situated near an international airport.
For more information on the Kaunas FEZ please visit www.ftz.lt
1009Lithuania was first mentioned in the Annales Quedlinburgenses.
1253 The State of Lithuania was founded. Mindaugas, the ruler of the united Lithuania, was crowned King.
1385 The Krėva Act was signed with Poland. Jogaila, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, married the Polish Princess Jadwiga, accepted Christianity and was crowned King of Poland.
1386 Jogaila established the Vilnius Diocese and organised a campaign to baptise Lithuania, which was the last country in Europe to adopt Christianity.
1410 In the Battle of Žalgiris (Grünwald) close to Tannenberg, a joint Lithuanian, Polish, Russian and Czech army under the command of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas defeated the Teutonic Order. This victory put an end to two century long attacks by the order.
1569 An agreement of Union between Lithuania and Poland was signed in Lublin, establishing the Commonwealth.
1579 Vilnius University was founded. For another two hundred years it remained the easternmost university in Europe.
1795 Russia, Prussia and Austria carried out the third partition of the Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth. Lithuania was incorporated into the Russian Empire.
1864–1904 A ban on Lithuanian publications in Latin characters was maintained. Books and newspapers in Latin characters were published in East Prussia and smuggled across the border.
1918 On February 16 the Council of Lithuania adopted a resolution on the re-establishment of an independent state of Lithuania with its capital in Vilnius.
1920-1939 Vilnius was conquered by Poland. Kaunas became the provisional capital of independent Lithuania.
1940 In accordance with the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union.
1941–1944 Lithuania was occupied by Nazi Germany.
1944–1953 An armed resistance movement known as ‘War after the War’ was waged in the forests of Lithuania. It was an attempt to stop the Soviet occupation and colonisation, forced collectivisation, mass persecutions and deportations of the Lithuanian population. The periods of Soviet and Nazi occupation inflicted enormous losses on the population due to the Holocaust of Lithuanian Jews, mass deportations to Siberia and numerous political emigrations to the West.
1988 The Sąjūdis Reform Movement was established.
1990March 11 The re-establishment of the independence of Lithuania was declared.
1991 Lithuania became a member of the United Nations.
1993 Soviet troops left Lithuania.
2004 Lithuania joined NATO.
2004 Lithuania became a member state of the EU.
Vilnius, as the capital of Lithuania, was first mentioned by Grand Duke Gediminas in his letter of 1323 to European towns, inviting merchants and craftsmen, promising them religious freedom and every kind of assistance. Since then Vilnius has been known as a cosmopolitan city, friendly to people of different nations and religions. The old street names (German, Jewish, Tartar and Russian) speak about the multiculturalism of the city, the houses of worship of nine different religions stand together close to one another.
Despite wars, occupations and destruction, the architecture of Vilnius remains unique. It is the largest Baroque city north of the Alps, and one of the farthest to the east. Nearly all the styles of European architecture from Gothic to Classicism are found in Vilnius.
The Old Town of Vilnius is one of the largest old towns in Central and Eastern Europe, covering almost 360 hectares and over 1 500 buildings. As one of the most authentic and best-preserved cities in Europe, Vilnius was included into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994.
Vilnius is not only a city with a rich history and wonderful architecture in a beautiful natural setting, where the Neris River and the Vilnia River meet. The capital of Lithuania is a modern city, a political, administrative and economic centre of the country and the heart of its education and culture.
Today, Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is one of the most frequently visited cities of Eastern Europe. It draws attention not only due to its unique architectural character, but also because of cultural events and attractions. Various businesses, political and cultural meetings are held here. Vilnius is attractively presented at international tourism exhibitions and co-operation between many capitals of Europe is promoted. In 2009, Vilnius, as the first of the cities of the new EU Member States, became the European Capital of Culture.
It is also the largest city of the country. The population of Vilnius is 548 835 people. This accounts for 17 % of the total population of the country. Vilnius is home to people of different ethnic backgrounds: 57.8% Lithuanians, 18.7% Poles, 14% Russians, 4% Belarusians, 0.5% Jews and people of other ethnic backgrounds account for the remaining 5%.
Vilnius, as capital of Lithuania, is the seat of the President, the Seimas (Parliament), the Government and the Supreme Court. Diplomatic missions, educational, cultural, financial, research and health care institutions are based there.
Kaunas, the second largest Lithuanian city, situated in the centre of the country, has survived a dramatic past. Situated at the confluence of the Nemunas River and the Neris River, it flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was important both for its strategic location as a fortress and as a convenient place for the transit of goods. Its development was then adversely affected by wars. Later, for almost three centuries it sank into oblivion.
The re-establishment of independence at the beginning of the 20th century, the conflict with Poland and the loss of Vilnius turned Kaunas into the provisional capital of Lithuania. It was transformed into a city of elegant architecture and an active cultural life. Modern communications, new urban planning and modern Bauhaus architecture dramatically changed the look and the spirit of the city. Reminiscences of this spirit transformed Kaunas into a symbol of the nation’s revival during the Soviet years.
After the re-establishment of independence in 1990, the centre of national attention shifted to Vilnius. Today Kaunas is gradually recovering its importance as a centre for education, sports (especially basketball), technology and small businesses.
Since Lithuania regained independence, Kaunas has certainly made the most of opportunities available through closer links to western countries and companies. With Lithuania having one of the fastest economic growth rates of the new EU member states, Kaunas has most certainly been one of the powerhouses of industry that has helped produce such an impressive economic climate in the country today.
Museums, music, art, dance and theatre form the backbone of Kaunas's local cultural heritage and contribute to the national cultural heritage of Lithuania. The cultural life here has deep traditions that developed over 600 years of history and were defined perhaps somehow during the last fifty years.
Klaipėda, the seaport of Lithuania, has recently marked its 750th anniversary. Founded by the Order of Cross Bearers, it is the only ice-free port on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. For a long time it was part of Prussia. After World War One, in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles, control of the city was transferred from Germany to France. In 1923, Klaipėda became part of Lithuania.
During the Soviet period, Klaipėda became a centre for industry and fisheries. After the re-establishment of independence the seaport grew rapidly, specialising in the reloading of dry cargo and in the export of oil products. As a dynamically developing town, it has overtaken Kaunas, the second largest city, according to the quantity of direct investment.
Klaipėda is now Lithuania’s gateway to the world and the capital of western Lithuania. It is a vibrant and exciting city to live and work in. The city has its own university, which is a true centre of science and culture.
Tourism is becoming increasingly important to Klaipėda and its hinterland, and major investments are made to promote it. The newly opened passenger cruise terminal, close to the city centre, will bring increased traffic to the area in years to come.
Klaipėda has a population of around 200 000. It has direct motorway links with Lithuania’s capital Vilnius (310 km) and Kaunas (220 km), the second largest city.
In Lithuanian folktales man often comes into contact with nature, and with different plants and beasts. The peaceful and beautiful nature of our country is a part of every Lithuanian.
Lithuanian nature is beautiful and diverse. It is diverse throughout the country, even in the smallest areas of woodland or riversides. The landscape of our country is very colourful. The chiselled hills and chains of lakes in Eastern Aukštaitija are very different from the landscapes of the Dzūkija region with the slowly flowing Nemunas and big, rustling forests through which rapid rivulets cut their way. The hilly woodlands of Žemaitija with its own lake district slope down into vast plains. Even plains in Sūduva are quite different from those in the north of Lithuania. The narrow belt of the Curonian Spit stretching between the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon with its high sand dunes and vulnerable flora has an absolutely different landscape.
There are five national parks in Lithuania. To a large degree they reflect the variety of landscape and culture of the country’s different geographical regions. The parks were founded in areas unique in their nature and their cultural monuments. In such areas, nature has been least influenced by man’s activities, farming or industry, and many monuments of our past have been preserved. The Law on Environmental Protection of the Republic of Lithuania allows farming and camping on the national parkland. However, there are reserves that people can visit only when accompanied by staff members of the park. In the old villages of the parks the natural and architectural environment has not much changed during the last two centuries. The owners of the farmsteads still live in almost all of the oldest villages and hamlets within the parks. Like their forefathers, they understand nature and earn their living by performing traditional occupations. The visitor can both rest and research nature while enjoying the picturesque sights at the national parks.
These national and regional parks offer visitors an opportunity to explore Lithuanian customs and traditions, as well as to taste local food and have a good time.
Moreover, there are lots of opportunities to spend holidays in the authentic Lithuanian countryside and enjoy the beauty of the nature.
For more information about our nature and countryside tourism in Lithuania please visit www.countryside.lt
The Lithuanian language and the kindred Latvian language belong to the Baltic group of Indo-European languages. Out of all the living Indo-European languages, Lithuanian has best retained its ancient system of phonetics and most of its morphological features. Since the 19th century, when similarity between Lithuanian and Sanskrit was discovered, Lithuanians take a particular pride in their mother tongue as the oldest living Indo-European language. To this day, some people base their own understanding of ethnic identity on linguistic identity. Lithuanians proudly quote the French linguist Antoine Meillet, who said that ‘anyone wishing to hear how Indo-Europeans spoke should come and listen to a Lithuanian peasant’. One can also safely say that Lithuanian is the language that cannot be understood by a foreign speaker if he has not learnt it. Moreover, even users of the two main dialects Aukštaičių (Highland Lithuanian) and Žemaičių (Lowland/Samogitian Lithuanian) can hardly understand each other, unless they use Standard Lithuanian. Linguists divide the main dialects into numerous sub-dialects, forms of speech which have been preserved to this day. This is a unique phenomenon in all Europe.
In Renaissance times, the Lithuanian language was not related to Indo-European, which was even not known at that time. There were completely different theories about the origins of the language. One of them was the theory of an Italian origin. Lithuanians noticed that many words in Lithuanian and Latin were similar. Venclovas Mikalojaitis (Michalo Lituanus, Mykolas Lietuvis) made a list of 74 words with roots from Latin: lot. dentes – lit. dantys (teeth), deus – dievas (god), nasus – nosis (nose). It is not necessary to master both languages to recognize words that resemble Latin. The fact that some words are similar to Latin led Lithuanians to speculate that the Lithuanian language is a distorted dialect of the Latin language. Such an inference seemed to be very ‘honourable’ for Catholic Lithuania, because Latin was the sacred language par excellence.
Indo-European origin. In 19th century with the rise of Indo-European philology all the previous theories concerning the origin of the Lithuanian language were dismissed. The conclusion was drawn that languages spoken by the Indo-Europeans in the old continent split into different languages. It came to light that Lithuanians did not distort a dialect of the Latin language. However, Lithuanian, Italian and Latin are cognate languages, but this affinity is rather far off.
Written Lithuanian evolved relatively late in comparison with some of its neighbours. The first sample of written Lithuanian is Catechismus (1547) by Martynas Mažvydas. Postilė (1599) by Mikalojus Daukša, the trilingual Polish-Latin-Lithuanian dictionary (around 1620) by Konstantinas Sirvydas, and the grammar of the Lithuanian language by Danielius Kleinas (1653) had a great impact on the standardisation of the language. A masterpiece of Lithuanian literature, a poem in hexameter ‘Metai’ (The Years), written by Kristijonas Donelaitis between 1758 and 1765, was an encyclopaedia of the peasant’s life. For his merits to the written Lithuanian language, Donelaitis is compared to Dante or Shakespeare and their influence on the written Italian and English.
Lithuania is the only country that has built monuments to book carriers. After the uprising in 1863, Russian tsarist authorities prohibited using Latin characters in Lithuanian texts. The prohibition lasted for several decades. Lithuanians categorically rejected the idea of writing in Cyrillic, as proposed by the authorities. The resistance to the ban on Lithuanian schools and publishing was highly organised and effective. Manuscripts were taken secretly to East Prussia and printed and then smuggled across the border to Lithuania. Russian authorities tried to suppress distribution of the books that they considered illegal, book carriers were executed, and several thousand people, mostly peasants, were exiled to Siberia. The linguistic and cultural resistance was so strong that during the ban (during 1864 – 1904) on the printed Lithuanian language, the foundations for standard Lithuanian were laid. In 2004, Lithuania marked the 100th anniversary of re-introduction of the Lithuanian language into public and cultural life.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the present alphabet was introduced. The standardisation of the language was influenced by the studies of the famous Lithuanian linguists Jonas Jablonskis and Kazimieras Būga. The Lithuanian Language Institute, having accumulated a 4.5-million-word file, published a definitive 20-volume ‘Dictionary of the Lithuanian Language’.
The Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania stipulates that ‘the Lithuanian language is the official language of the Republic of Lithuania’. Consequently, the Lithuanian language is used in all walks of life. The State Commission of the Lithuanian Language observes the usage of the Lithuanian language. This Commission has the power to punish people with a pecuniary monetary punishment for incorrect usage of the Lithuanian language in public. The right of persons belonging to national minorities to use their national language is also respected in Lithuania and it is concerned with the retention of Russian, Polish, Belarusian and other languages of national minorities, members of which have traditionally settled in Lithuania. Lithuanian is studied as a foreign language in Italy, the United States, Germany, Poland, Czech, Latvia, Finland, Sweden, France, Slovakia, Brazil, Australia, the UK, Canada and in many other countries.
For more information please visit the Lithuanian Language Institute website: www.lki.lt
• EDUCATION AND SCIENCE
The creation of the system of formal education in Lithuania started at the end of the 16th century. The very first European Ministry of Education (to use a modern term), the Education Commission for the Lithuanian-Polish state, was established in 1773. It created a new system for the management of education, and guidelines for the reform of teaching practice.
The interwar period of independence (1918–1940) was marked by the introduction of compulsory four-year elementary education for all children of school age. During the years of the Soviet occupation (1940–1990) Lithuania had a strictly centralised educational system (controlled by the Moscow authorities). Learning Russian was compulsory, but secondary and higher education were available in Lithuanian, as well as numerous cultural activities. Though dominated by a communist ideology, the system had a positive influence on the development of the network of schools. Among the other accomplishments of the period, one might list free education and good schooling in natural and exact sciences.
The contemporary Lithuanian system of education is based on European cultural values. Systematic educational reform has been going on since 1992. Pre-university education in Lithuania takes 12 years. Children start school at the age of seven. Elementary school takes four years (1st to 4th years), basic secondary six years (5th to 10th years) and general secondary two more years (10th to 12th years). Education is obligatory for children under 16. The evaluation system is based on a ten-point grading scale. There are about 1.400 secondary schools in Lithuania and 464.600 pupils. Pupils get top awards in international contests in chemistry, physics, mathematics and information technology. The country has a well-developed system of vocational schools and colleges in all the regions.
Students can choose between 49 accredited institutions of higher education: 30 state institutions (15 universities and 15 colleges) and 19 private ones (7 universities and 12 colleges). Currently there are about 150.000 students in Lithuania, 3.800 of them are foreign students.
The First Statute of Lithuania (1529), began the creation of legislative processes in many East European countries and was among the first works to make a statement about the country’s intellectual potential.
The history of higher education in Lithuania goes back to the times when Vilnius Academy-University (Academia et Universitas Vilnensis Societatis Jesu) was opened under the new privilege by King Stephanus Bathoreus, issued on April 1, 1579, and confirmed by a papal bull issued by Pope Gregory XIII on 29 October of the same year. It turned out to be the first higher education establishment in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Eastern Europe.
Lithuania’s contribution to the world science in later times was made by a number of well-known names. Ignas Domeika, a nature researcher in Chile and a professor and rector of the University of Santiago, Marija Gimbutas in anthropology, Emanuel Levinas in philosophy, Algirdas Julius Greimas in linguistics and semiotics, Vytautas Andrius Graičiūnas in management theory. These are just a few of them.
Breakthrough ideas. Not before long, Vilnius University became an important intellectual centre. It had 18 professors and a thousand of students as early as 17th century. Vilnius University had enough potential for generating the most advanced ideas. The most outstanding figures were Martinus Smiglecius who earned the University prominence in Europe through his writings “Logica” and “On Usury”, poet Mathias Casimirus Sarbievius, master of rhetoric Sigismundus Lauxminus, Albertus Koialowicius-Wijuk, author of the first Lithuania’s history book, Constantinus Syrvidus, founder of Lithuanian lexicography and linguistics in general, Meletius Smotricius, author of “Slavonic Grammar”, Casimirus Siemienovicius, author of multi-staged rocket idea, mathematicians and astronomers Martizin Poczobutt and Thomas Zebrovicius (the latter, in 1753, established the oldest in Eastern Europe and fourth in the world University Observatory.), Jean Emanuel Gilibert, head of History Deaprtment, Georg Forster, Stanyslaw Bonifacy Jundzill and other figures, known world-wide.
Hi-Tech development. At the end of 2003, the Government of the Republic of Lithuania approved the National Long-Term R&D Strategy and its implementation programme in line with the provisions of the White Paper on Science and Technology. With a view to a national need for hi-tech development, the Government has been working on a Hi-Tech Development Programme, aimed to facilitate the development of hi-tech production areas that have global prospects and available research potential enabling to produce globally competitive products. The mentioned programme provides for the development of R&D in biotechnologies, mechatronics, laser and information technologies, nanotechnologies and electronics.
Biotechnology is one of the best examples of targeted research and its application in production. Lithuanian biotechnology research centres have accumulated a great intellectual potential and achieved good results in the chemical and biochemical research of protein, enzymes and nucleic acid for pharmaceutical application, as well as the molecular biology research of prokaryote and eukaryote cells. Though the share of the Lithuanian biotechnology sector is relatively small, it was assessed by global audit and business consulting company Ernst & Young as having no equals in Central and Eastern Europe.
Laser technologies. Lithuania has over 10 laser technology companies developing and manufacturing laser-related products. About 75% of their production is exported to the most mature countries: the USA, Japan, and the EU. Laser technology and research centres implement international projects, funded by the EU and NATO. The international acclaim of the Lithuanian laser research could be demonstrated by the project LASERLAB EUROPE. The project was awarded in 2004, due to which Vilnius University Laser Research Centre became a partner for Integrated European Laser Laboratories.
Lithuania has over a thousand IT companies with a steady rise in outputs and GDP share. Now, dozens of companies have concluded contracts with foreign clients and continue developing products for global market. Some of these are joint foreign-Lithuanian ventures. The largest research potential is in Kaunas University of Technology, Vilnius University, the Institute of Mathematics and Informatics and Vilnius Gediminas Technical University. The research that is carried out also includes new software development methods and hardware design technologies.
Once known as ‘the Soviet Silicon Valley’, Lithuania now has world-class specialists in biotechnology, lasers, telecommunications and information technologies, bringing leading products and services to global markets. A new branch of mathematics, the theory of probability, was generated at Vilnius University by Professor Jonas Kubilius and his associates. Also, Lithuania is the birthplace for laser methods for research in physics and biophysics, a multicolour astrophotometric system for two-dimensional star classification, and much more.
An unexpected fusion of numerous colourful traditions, values and influences: this is what characterises the Lithuanian culture. This complex phenomenon has successfully combined elements of pagan mythology with Christianity. It received a significant input of West European influence on the birth of the professional Lithuanian arts in the period of the Renaissance and later. Fruitful links between Lithuania and the rest of Europe in the first period of independence in the 20th century made a notable contribution to the development of modern Lithuanian culture.
The diversity of the Lithuanian culture has its roots in the multiethnic legacy of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (14th to 18th century). The limits of the Lithuanian cultural identity have always exceeded the limits of the ethnic territory of Lithuania. Due to historical reasons, the Lithuanian culture exists today in Poland, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, the United States of America and numerous West European countries. Leaflet Different nations. Single country
Though tolerant for numerous influences, which came with guest artists, occupations, forced and strategic unions, and cultural and scientific exchanges, for centuries Lithuanians have arduously safeguarded the identity-forming elements of their traditional culture. As a truly unique example of Lithuanian folk music, glees or sutartinės (from the word sutarti, ‘to be in concordance, in agreement’) represent an ancient form of two and three-voiced polyphony, based on the oldest principles of multivoiced vocal music: heterophony, parallelism, canon and free imitation. Lithuanian multipart songs (sutartinės) are inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. One of the most prominent phenomena of traditional Lithuanian culture, the Cross-crafting and its Symbolism, is also on that list. This tradition originates from the pre-Christian world. It refers to making wooden crosses and shrines. Adorned with geometric and floral decorations, which have symbolic meanings, each cross is erected in accordance with a specific intention in graveyards as well as, by the roads or at crossroads, or close to dwelling places.
The Lithuanian Song and Dance Celebration tradition, which has lasted for a hundred years now, is one of the largest cultural events in Lithuania. Taking place every four years, the Song and Dance Celebration is seen as the most universal manifestation of the Lithuanian national, cultural, artistic, public and political identity nationwide. It has become a link between the archaic folk cultural heritage and a contemporary national culture, as well as the professional art. The tradition and symbolism of the Song and Dance Celebration in Lithuania has been proclaimed by UNESCO a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The history of the modern Lithuanian professional art started with painter and composerMikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875–1911). His uniqueness has hardly any parallels in Lithuanian art, though he was not isolated from the artistic currents of the time. The work of this gifted artist embraced Symbolism and Romanticism. He is considered a pathfinder both in the professional art and music.
The most contemporary cultural phenomena in Lithuania are strongly influenced by the traditions of the rich local culture and the European context. The excellent reputation of the Lithuanian theatre has been proved many times in front of domestic and foreign audiences. Lithuanians foster national cultural pride in such directors as Eimuntas Nekrošius, Oskaras Koršunovas, Rimas Tuminas, Jonas Vaitkus and Gintaras Varnas.
Strange as it may seem, the Lithuanian theatre reached the level of appreciation even before the re-establishment of the independence of Lithuania 11th March 1990. Great Lithuanian theatre artist Juozas Miltinis, during his years of studies at Charles Dullin “Theatre de l’Atelier” in Paris, became known in Paris cinema and theatre scene. Among his friends there were such famous and talented artists as Jean Vilar and world-known mime Marcel Marceu. After finishing his studies, Juozas Miltinis returned to Lithuania and established the drama theatre in Panevėžys. Among his students there were famous and talented Lithuanian artists such as Bronius Babkauskas, Gediminas Karka, Donatas Banionis, Algimantas Masiulis, Stasys Petronaitis and Dalia Melėnaitė. The opening night of every new performance was an important event in the theatre and sometimes even caused a sensation. Although it sounds unbelievable, but at that time many admirers of his theatre used to come from Moscow or Leningrad (St.Petersburg now) to Panevėžys (not to Vilnius or Kaunas) in order to watch a performance directed by Juozas Miltinis.
The country can boast of a number of well-known professional symphony and chamber orchestras, choirs, opera singers and ballet dancers. It would suffice to mention such eminent operatic singers as Violeta Urmana and Edgaras Montvidas, pianists Mūza Rubackytė and Petras Geniušas, or young pianists Indrė Petrauskaitė and Lukas Geniušas, whom the world honours.
Cultural events all the year round include an excellent choice of annual international festivals of classical music, theatre, cinema and poetry, featuring many prominent Lithuanian and guest performers. Lithuania is also widely known as a country of jazz performers and fans. They are happy to hold several annual international festivals in Kaunas, Birštonas and Vilnius.
Despite the fact that Lithuania is a relatively small country, its culture has spread throughout the world. In the previous century Lithuanians were a nation of emigrants. They settled down in Western Europe, North and South America and Australia. A very active and influential community of Lithuanian emigrants is located in the United States of America. A few names of emigrants, who the cherished Lithuanian culture are worth a mention: archaeologist and researcher of mythology Marija Gimbutas (the United States), theoretician and sociologist of culture Vytautas Kavolis (the United States), Lithuanian filmmaker, writer, and curator, often called "the godfather of American avant-garde cinema” Jonas Mekas (the United States), semiotician and literary scholar Algirdas Julius Greimas (France), art historian Jurgis Baltrušaitis (France) (his father Jurgis Baltrušaitis was a Lithuanian diplomat in Moscow, known as a poet writing in Russian and also one of the greatest Russian symbolists), theorist of politics Aleksandras Štromas (the UK and the United States) and philosopher Algis Mickūnas (the United States), Tomas Venclova, a poet and literary scholar, Yale University professor. In 1981 in Chicago, he edited a selection of poems “Lithuania in the world”. His poetry is translated not only into English, but also into Russian, Hungarian, Polish, Slovenian and German.
Tourists know Lithuania as a country of cities with architectural splendour and ample choice of entertainment. It is a land with an exquisite coastline, health resorts, ancient woodlands, thousands of lakes, meandering rivers and traditional villages.
The Kuršių Nerija (Curonian Spit) is a natural wonder with the highest sand dunes in Eastern Europe. This sandy stretch of land with its long central street winding for almost 50 kilometres from Smiltynė to Nida, separates the Kuršių Marios (Curonian Lagoon) from the Baltic Sea. This tiny ‘Sahara’ was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2000. Swimming, walking, fishing and eating in coastal restaurants with the smell of eels attract many tourists. There are now four friendly holiday resorts with quays for yachts and ancient ships, surrounded by pine tree forests.
Vilnius Historic Centre. In 1994, Vilnius historic centre was inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage List as having an outstanding universal value, as its historic part of the city formed in 14th-18th centuries. Today it is recognized that in those times when it prospered, Vilnius made a great influence on regional culture and architecture development in all Central and Eastern Europe. Vilnius historic centre presents extraordinary examples of architectural ensemble and landscape type.
The Kernavė Archaeological Site (Cultural Reserve of Kernavė). Together with its surroundings and all its visible and invisible natural and cultural treasures, it is a State Cultural Reserve and a UNESCO protected archaeological site, a property attesting to the evolution of settlements in the Baltic Sea region between the ninth millennium BC and the Middle Ages and one of the crucial periods in the history of Europe - the arrival of Christianity among the last pagan communities in Europe. The most important element on the Reserve's territory is an impressive defence system, exceptional in northern Europe. It comprises a chain of five hill-forts with wooden fortifications, which formed an integrated defence complex in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
The Palanga Amber Museum houses the world’s largest collection of amber with inclusions. The whole history of amber, from its formation to its possible application, is displayed at the museum.
Visiting Lithuania provides a chance to see the world-famous Hill of Crosses, a unique Christian site of pilgrimage near the city of Šiauliai. For 300 years people have come here with hundreds of thousands of votive crosses brought from all over the world.
Trakai Historical National Park, located about 30 kilometres from Vilnius, is dotted with 33 lakes. It encapsulates the medieval capital of Lithuania and its surrounding lakes and majestic countryside. A red brick castle fortress built in the 14th century on one of the islands on Lake Galvė is a very popular tourist destination.
Druskininkai, a spa haven with pine forests and natural springs, is the birthplace of the most famous Lithuanian artist Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis. The Grūtas Park-Museum provides the possibility to stroll among relics of the Soviet empire, have lunch at a Soviet-style canteen and listen to Red Army military marches and speeches by Soviet leaders.
Rumšiškės Open Air Museum is a miniature display of Lithuania in the second half of the 18th century with its old houses, homesteads, pubs and mills and with men and women in traditional costumes. Old farmsteads have been created out of relocated authentic buildings with authentic furniture and decorations. The museum features the traditional countryside of four main ethnic regions of the country: Samogitia in the west, the Highlands in the east, Suvalkija in the southwest, and Dzūkija in the south. Crowds of people come here to see off the winter, to roll Easter eggs, and to celebrate the Midsummer festival.
The geographical centre of Europe and the Park of Europe (an open air museum). Several countries claim to be at the heart of Europe, but according to the research of the French National Geographic Institute, the one and only geographical central point of the continent is in Lithuania, a fact that has even won recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records. In 1989, a group of French scientists from the institute announced that the geographical centre of Europe was just to the north of the Lithuanian capital Vilnius – 26 kilometres. The goal of the museum is to give an artistic significance to the geographic centre of the European continent and to present the best of the Lithuanian and international modern art achievements. While enjoying the treasured landscape of the park, you will at the same time discover the admirable world of art. The sculptures are permanently exhibited amidst beautiful rolling hills, woodlands and grasslands dotted with natural springs.
Raganų Kalnas (the Hill of Witches) is a unique collection of wooden sculptures, which are collected on a forested hill in Juodkrantė. The sculptures have their origin in ancient Lithuanian legends, folk tales, or are just a product of author's imagination. Visitors are welcome to walk around and take a look at the sculptures free of charge.
Pažaislis Monastery The Monastery is one of the most beautiful Baroque buildings in Lithuania. The ensemble designed for the Camaldolese priory was built in the 17th century under the supervision of artists from Florence.
Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis National Art Museum It is the oldest and the biggest art museum in Lithuania. It is the only place where visitors can see the development of the Lithuanian art from medieval times to the present days. The Museum collects, stores, studies and popularizes the art of M. K. Čiurlionis and the heritage of the Lithuanian and world culture.
National Gallery of Art collects, researches and exhibits the Lithuanian art of the 20th and 21st centuries, explores and consolidates its links to the international culture. This gallery is a contemporaneous, multifunctional centre for art and culture, which seeks to establish a dialogue with the society. This is the space for active communication where the audience can see a permanent exposition and temporary exhibitions, as well as to participate in cultural events, lectures and educational programmes.
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Over the centuries Lithuanians have created a unique palette of dishes, influenced by the culture of various nationalities. The Lithuanian cuisine features products that suit its cool and moist northern climate: barley, potatoes, rye, beets, greens, berries, and mushrooms are locally grown, and dairy products are one of its specialities. Since it shares its climate and agricultural practices with Eastern Europe, the Lithuanian cuisine has much in common with other Eastern European (Polish, Ukrainian and Russian) cuisines, and shares some similarities to Hungarian, Romanian, and Georgian cuisines, as well as Ashkenazi cuisine. Nevertheless, it has its own distinguishing features, which were formed by a variety of influences during the country's long and difficult history.
A distinctive trait of the Lithuanian cuisine is the preponderance of potato dishes. A lot of dishes are prepared using potatoes. Among them there is ‘Kugelis’ (potato pudding), ‘Švilpikai’ or ‘Bulbonai’ (shredded potatoes) and also ‘Vėdarai’ or ‘Kishka’ (potato sausages). But the main and most famous Lithuanian dish is ‘Cepelinai’ or ‘Didžkukuliai’ (a type of dumpling).
Cepelinai (so named because the shape resembles a Zeppelin airship) is perhaps the most well-known Lithuanian dish. It is a kind of dumpling made from grated potatoes and stuffed with minced meat and a smoked suet. This dish maybe be prepared differently depending on the regions of Lithuania: in Klaipėda (Lithuania’s only seaport) it is stuffed with fish, in Žemaitija (Samogitia) it is served with a special sour cream gravy and mushrooms and in Aukštaitija (the Highlands) the dish is usually stuffed with meat.
Several hundreds of types of cheese are prepared in Lithuania: beginning with traditional hard cheese and ending with fruit or smoked cheeses. The smoked cheese, which Lithuanians themselves consider the best in the world, goes with beer very well. It seems that Germans and Scandinavians, who come to Lithuania on drink tours, agree with the residents of the country on this very point.
Soups are very popular in Lithuania. There is vegetable soup, meat soup, and soup with chicken or other poultry or game, even beer soup. One of the most interesting Lithuanian soups is Šaltibarščiai (cold beetroot soup), which is prepared from beets/beetroots, Kefir (fermented milk product), greens and boiled eggs. This dish is the most popular when served on a hot summer day.
Each Lithuanian region has its own culinary specialties, which is why it is sometimes said that Lithuania has not just one national cuisine, but several.
Basketball craze hit the country in 1937, when the Lithuanian national men's basketball team won the European basketball championship. Lithuania repeated their success by capturing the title again in 1939. This was the beginning of the basketball era in Lithuania. The Lithuanian women’s team won the silver medal in 1938 and nearly 60 years later won the European basketball championship in 1997.
During the Soviet period basketball became one of the cornerstones of national identity. The Lithuanian basketball team Žalgiris won the Soviet Union’s championship five times and every final, usually played against CSKA (Central Sports Club of Armed Forces), turned into a game that pitted Lithuania against the Soviet Union.
After the country re-established its independence in 1990, the Lithuanian basketball team participated in the Olympics in Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens and Beijing. The pre-war traditions were kept alive with Lithuania’s three successive bronze medals at the Olympics in 1992 (Barcelona), 1996 (Atlanta) and 2000 (Sydney), and the gold medal at the 2003 European championship (after the break of long 64 years). The Lithuanian team also won a bronze medal in the 2007 European championshi, and in 2010 won bronze medal at the World Championship.
Lithuanian Basketball Clubs, ‘Žalgiris’ (Kaunas) and ‘Lietuvos rytas’ (Vilnius), also succeeded to accept the challenge that was thrown down by the strongest basketball clubs in Europe. Basketball Club Žalgiris (BC Žalgiris), became a four-time Champion of the USSR in 1951, 1985, 1986, and 1987. In 1998, the team won the Cup Winners' Cup and a year later Žalgiris became the strongest men’s basketball team in the old continent. In April 2005, the Lithuanian basketball celebrated an unforgettable victory: BC Lietuvos Rytas won the ULEB Cup. The next year they won the second ULEB title.
Basketball is the most popular sport in Lithuania, with more than 24 000 people playing basketball, including 10 000 schoolchildren. Some legendary players, like Arvydas Sabonis or Šarūnas Marčiulionis, have also established their own schools and willingly share their experience with children.
In 2011, Lithuania hosted the European Men’s Basketball Championship.
In 1924, Lithuanian sportsmen made their debut at the Olympic Games in Paris.The country’s first Olympic champion was boxer Danas Pozniakas. The first Olympic champion of independent Lithuania was Romas Ubartas, who had success in track and field athletics.
Virgilijus Alekna, a gifted discus thrower, became champion at the Sydney Olympics. In summer 2003, Virgilijus Alekna proved that he could be the best discus thrower in the world. In Athens, Alekna won his second Olympic Champion title and in 2008 he won the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics.
Daina Guzinevičiūtė became women’s shooting champion at the Sydney Olympics. Austra Skujytė won the silver medal in heptathlon in the Olympics in Athens.
Lithuania is well known for victories of its athletes in modern pentathlon. Andrejus Zadneprovskis won the silver medal at the Olympics in Athens. Edvinas Krungolcas became the Champion of Europe in 2003, 2004 and 2005. He also won the World Cup. At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Edvinas Krungolcas won the silver medal and Andrejus Zadneprovskis achieved the bronze medal.
Lithuanian rowers have won even 4 silver and 10 bronze medals. The ideal training and competition venue for rowers is in Trakai, a Lithuanian city famous for its breath-taking scenery.
Gintarė Volungevičiūtė also had success at the Beijing Olympics. She finished with the sailing silver medal and wrestler Mindaugas Mizgaitis won the bronze medal.
Victories of Lithuanian winter sports athletes are more moderate, but still there are some reasons to be proud of. Biathlonist Algimantas Šalna together with his team-mates won the gold medal at the Sarajevo Olympics. It was the first Olympic gold medal won by a Lithuanian athlete at the Winter Olympics.
In 1998, Vida Vencienė won the gold medal in 10 km classical skiing at the Calgary Olympics. She was the first Lithuanian woman, who became the Olympic champion. In the same Games she was the third in skiing 5 km.
Over 250 participants of the Olympics brought back to Lithuania 29 gold, 22 silver and 57 bronze medals.
The National Anthem of Lithuania is also played at the Paralympics. Lithuania is proud of its sportsmen, who have been awarded medals at the Paralympics.
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Though football is rated as the most popular game in the world, in Lithuania it comes second after basketball. The 80s were the golden era of the Lithuanian football. The legendary Vilniaus “Žalgiris” was reaping victories on the international grass and thousands of fans were thronging to see their team in the home arena; two Lithuanian football players – Arvydas Janonis and Arminas Narbekovas – became Olympic champions with the USSR team, and Viačeslavas Sukristovas won the silver medal in the European championship. Though Lithuanian clubs have not still made major breakthroughs on the international level, a couple of Lithuanian players, such as Edgaras Jankauskas (played for FC Porto in 2003) and Deividas Šemberas (CSKA Moscow) can boast of their UEFA Cup champion titles.
The Lithuanian national ice hockey team has not participated at the Olympics so far, but we are proud of Lithuanian-born Darius Kasparaitis and Dainius Zubrus, who have played an important role in the NHL.
With tennis gaining popularity in Lithuania, more talented tennis players also tend to appear. The most promising Lithuanian tennis player is Ričardas Berankis, who captured the U.S. Open Junior Championship (singles) and triumphed in the Orange Bowl Tennis Championships in 2007. He finished the year by clinching No. 1 ranking and was crowned ITF Junior Boys' World champion.
Lithuanian ice dancing duo Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas won the bronze medals at the 2006 European Championship.
Klaipėda University formation team ‘Žuvėdra’ is a six-time World Champion and seven-time European Champion.
A couple of standard dances Edita Daniūtė and Arūnas Bižokas have won World Standard Formation Dance Championship and the European Cup Standard, as well as the classical dance programme at Non-Olympics.
The sport of weightlifting is in the first place and is related with the name of Ramūnas Vyšniauskas, whose medal collection contains European silver and bronze medals.
Would it be easy to imagine that a man could raise a balk above his head, which weighs 202.5 kg? That he would raise 150 kg 8 times and the axis of Apollo 6 times, which weighs 166 kg? Would it be possible for a person to raise the weight of 320 kg from the earth for 10 times and to carry for 30 m things, which weigh 410 kg, or even to throw into a 17 feet (5 m 18,16 cm) height a weight of 22 kg? All these results set the World Record and all these records were set by Žydrūnas Savickas, who has won the title of the World's Strongest Man five times.
Mountain climber Vladas Vitkauskas has climbed the highest peaks of every continent in 1993-1996.
Yachting. “Traditions, Honour, Mastership” is the motto of Lithuanian yachtsmen. Due to favourable weather conditions, this elegant sport is cultivated on the western coast of Lithuania, and also in Kaunas and Trakai. One of the most famous yachtsmen is Raimondas Šiugždinis, who sailed to victory in the Laser Radial in 1997 and became a world and European champion. Currently one of the best yachtswomen is Lithuanian Gintarė Scheidt (Volungevičiūtė), the 2006 European Championship silver medallist and 2007 World Championship bronze medallist in the Laser Radial.
Jurgis Kairys, a three-time world champion in aerobatic flying, has also won the largest number of series in the World Cup and World Grand Prix. His shows are always a breathtaking event. He was the first in the world to fly under a pedestrian bridge and the first one to repeat the spectacular feat flying wheels-up. Kairys has recently won a silver medal in the World Aerobatic Championship in 2009.