Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Lithuania country profile

Map of Lithuania

Lithuania is the largest and most southerly of the three Baltic republics.

Not much more than a decade after it regained its independence during the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, Lithuania was welcomed as a Nato member in late March 2004.


The move came just weeks before a second historic shift for the country in establishing its place in the Western family of nations as it joined the EU in May 2004. These developments would have been extremely hard to imagine in not-so-distant Soviet times.

Russia, anxious about the implications of the eastward advance of the EU and Nato to include the three Baltic republics, has a particular eye on Lithuania which has an important border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

Main square and cathedral, Vilnius
Vilnius, the capital, weathered a series of foreign occupations

The history of Lithuania has close ties with that of Poland, its neighbour to the southwest. By the end of the 18th century most of the country came under the Russian empire. German occupation in the first world war was followed by two decades of independence, although Vilnius was occupied by Poland for most of that time.

Following a pact between Stalin and Hitler, Soviet troops arrived in 1940. They were pushed out by the Nazis the following year but returned in 1944.

For the next half century of Soviet rule, Lithuanians relied on Catholic tradition and memories of independence to preserve their national identity, a skill mastered through centuries of foreign domination. Pagan traditions with roots stretching back centuries have been kept alive too.

Lithuania has embraced market reform since independence. In the run up to and period following EU entry the republic saw very strong economic growth. It applied to join the eurozone from January 2007 but was rejected because the inflation rate was too high.

Lithuania's boom years came to a sudden end in 2008, and after two decades of capitalism, the country became one of the biggest victims of the global economic crisis.


  • Full name: Republic of Lithuania
  • Population: 3.3 million (UN, 2011)
  • Capital: Vilnius
  • Area: 65,300 sq km (25,212 sq miles)
  • Languages: Lithuanian (official), Russian, Polish, Belarusian
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 67 years (men), 78 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Lithuanian litas = 100 centas
  • Main exports: Textiles, clothing, fertilisers, industrial machinery
  • GNI per capita: US $11,390 (World Bank, 2010)
  • Internet domain: .lt
  • International dialling code: +370


President: Dalia Grybauskaite

Dalia Grybauskaite was voted in as Lithuania's first woman president with an emphatic election victory in May 2009.

Dalia Grybauskaite
Ms Grybauskaite cites Margaret Thatcher as an inspiration

She won 69% of the vote, against 11% for her closest rival, Algirdas Butkevicius of the opposition Social Democratic Party.

Previously the European Union budget commissioner, she stood as an independent, but with backing from the four-party centre-right coalition of Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius.

A former finance minister, Ms Grybauskaite's reputation for plain speaking helped win over an electorate nervous about the severe economic downturn that hit Lithuania in 2008.

She is sometimes dubbed the "Iron Lady", the nickname of former British PM Margaret Thatcher, a steely free-marketeer she describes as one of her political models.

Ms Grybauskaite has said that her decision to stand came after anger at the economic slump boiled over in a riot in front of the parliament building in Vilnius in January 2009.

She declared herself broadly in support of the governing centre-right's response to the crisis, but criticised some of its tax increases and called on some ministers to "correct mistakes of the past or go".

Born in 1956 in Vilnius - then still part of the Soviet Union - Ms Grybauskaite studied in the Russian city of Leningrad - today's St Petersburg.

A senior civil servant since Lithuania's independence in 1990, she served as finance minister from 2001 to 2004, when the country nominated her the European Commission after joining the EU that year.

Prime minister: Andrius Kubilius

Andrius Kubilius is leader of the conservative Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats group, and served once as prime minister in 1999-2000.

Lithuanian premier Andrius Kubilius
Mr Kubilius insists that Lithuania's economy has stabilised

He led this conservative alliance into the October 2008 elections, and beat the governing Social Democrats into second place.

His coalition government with three smaller centre-right parties won parliamentary approval in December. Together they hold 80 seats in Lithuania's 141-member parliament.

Mr Kubilius has said his priority is to tackle Lithuania's economic downturn.

A physicist by training, he entered parliament in 1992 after involvement in the pro-independence Sajudis movement. He joined the Homeland Union the following year.


Lithuania's private TV and radio stations compete with public networks run by Lithuanian National Radio and Television (LRT).

The media are free and operate independently of the state. There are no government-owned newspapers.

Nonetheless, the national broadcaster has sometimes encountered attempts by politicians to influence its editorial policy.

By June 2010 there were 2.1 million internet users (Internetworldstats). More than 670,000 Lithuanians use Facebook, a 2010 press report noted.

The press



News agencies/internet

Print Sponsor




Compiled by BBC Monitoring

Sex slave's cry for police help
01 Sep 11 |  Norfolk
Vilnius mayor crushes illegal car
03 Aug 11 |  Europe
Baltic fury over Austria release
19 Jul 11 |  Europe
Lithuania jails Soviet commando
11 May 11 |  Europe
Blondes only for Lithuanian company
04 Feb 11 |  Business
Lithuania shuts nuclear generator
31 Dec 09 |  Europe
CIA used Lithuania 'black sites'
22 Dec 09 |  Europe
Reopening Lithuania's old wounds
21 Jul 08 |  Crossing Continents
Lithuanian ban on Soviet symbols
17 Jun 08 |  Europe
Policeman wins award in Lithuania
05 Apr 07 |  Norfolk
Sex slave regrets 'ruined' life
19 Mar 07 |  Leicestershire
Lithuanian Jews revive Yiddish
30 Jan 07 |  Special Reports
Baltic states agree nuclear plant
27 Feb 06 |  Europe
Baltic states in EU energy tie-up
08 Dec 06 |  Europe
Vilnius launches 'language buses'
20 Sep 06 |  Europe


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2018 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific