VILNIUS

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VILNIUS

Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania and one of the country’s oldest cities. It stretches along both banks of the fast flowing Neris River, and is set among hills pine forests. Vilnius is very old city indeed. The honor for founding Vilnius is justly given to Gediminas (a Lithuanian Duke) in the year 1323. Having declared Vilnius his “royal town”, Gediminas created the conditions for its subsequent growth as the political, economical and cultural center of Lithuania. The fortress on Castle Hiill was used for defense purposes and was called the Upper Castle.

Following the craftsmen in other European towns at the end of the 15th century, Vilnius craftsmen began to join together by professions into guilds. Many Catholic churches and monasteries appeared in the town. Stone buildings sprang up inside the Lower Castle. The new Cathedral was among them. Crafts and trade continued to develop in the 16th century. Many beautiful new buildings in the late Gothic and Renaissance style apppeared in the town. The most significant event in the cultural life of 16th century Lithuania was the founding of the Vilnius Academy in 1579, which was endowed with the rights and privileges of a university. In 1795 Vilnius became the center of

f a new gubernia consisting of the lands annexed to the Russian Empire. A number of new Classical style buildings were built, including the Cathedral, which had been reconstructed at the end of the 18th century, a new town hall, and the Governor-Generals’ Palace. In 1860, a railway, the first in Lithuania, crossed Vilnius and connected with St. Petersburg and Warsaw.
During World War I Vilnius was occupied by the Kaiser’s troops for three and a half years. On 16 February, 1918, Lithuanian Council in Vilnius proclaimed an independent Lithuanian Republic. In the autumn of 1920, Vilnius and the region to which it belonged were occupied by Poland. On October 10th, 1939, Lithuania and the Soviet Union signed a treaty on mutual aid, in accordance wiith which Vilnius and the Vilnius Region were returned to Lithuania. In 1940, Vilnius became the capital of Soviet Lithuania, which meant it was an administrative center of occupied Lithuania.

The Vilnius City coat of arms – St Christopher.

The ancestors of the Lithuanian nation – the Balts – were descended from the old native Europides who mixed with Indo-European tribes more than 4000 years ago. The Balts inhabited a vast area in Central and Eastern Europe. The old State of Lithuania, the Grand Duchy, wa

as founded near the Baltic Sea and Vilnius was the main centre of the ethnic Baltic population.
Vilnius was the crossroads of important internal and international merchant routes which led from the Baltic to the Black Sea and from Western Europe to the Middle East. Castles built on these routes (the Upper, the Lower, the Curve and others) composed one of the most powerful complexes of castles in Central and Eastern Europe north of the Danube at the end of the 14th century.
The prosperity of Vilnius city is symbolized by a legend about a dream of the grand Duke Gediminas, in which he saw a roaring iron wolf on one of the numerous Vilnius hills, the roar of which was like the roar of a hundred wolves. The oldest Lithuanian prophet explained the dream to the ruler as meaning that the town’s reputation would spread far and wide.
The first king of the Lithuanian State, Mindaugas, accepted Christianity in 1251 and was crowned king in Vilnius Cathedral in 1253. In 1322-23, the Grand Duke Gediminas sent his famous letters to the Pope, West European monasteries and towns all the way to “Rome itselfІ, in which the old Lithuanian spiritual culture was represented. He
e condemned aggressive invaders, fostered international co-operation and declared tolerance of diverse religions and views.
The Grand Duke Vytautas the Great was the most prominent founder of Lithuanian might, the organizer and leader of the Battle of Tannenberg, the greatest battle against the Teutonic Order. He stopped Tartar aggression in the East and was considered to be one of the leading politicians in southeast policy (in the presence of the growing Tartar threat).
In 1387 the Lithuanian state adopted Christianity and the City of Vilnius received Magdeburg rights.
In the 16th century, the Lithuanian rulers’ palace was a famous hearth of science and culture with treasures that, according to a Papal nuncio in 1560, were hardly surpassed by the treasures of Venice and the Vatican. One of the greatest scientific libraries was established there. Later the books were handed over to the Jesuit Collegium, founded in 1570, and finally to the library of Vilnius University (the first university in Eastern Europe).
The 16th and the first part of the 17th century witnessed the flourishing of the Renaissance town, the capital of Lithuania. Operas were staged in Vilnius and the numerous orchestras, accompanying delegations from Lithuania, surprised people in Western Europe. International relations were ra
apidly expanding and as a result of a certain similarity between the Latin and Lithuanian languages, Lithuanian literature in Latin.
In the 19th century, Vilnius continued to maintain its position as the real hearth of science and culture in Eastern Europe.
Lithuania has now gained world-wide recognition. It became a nember of NATO on 17th September 1991. The capital is listed in the World Heritage Register of UNESCO. The Old Part of Vilnius is among the most prominent monuments of culture in the world. Epoch-making European styles have left their distinct traces in the city’s architecture: Gothic, Renaissance, baroque and classical. The group of churches of St Ann, St Bernardine and St Michael form an impressive monument to the Gothic and Renaissance styles and are a distinctive feature of the architecture of Old Vilnius. The brick gothic facade of St Ann’s church has no equal in the whole of Eastern Europe. The Church of St Peter and St Paul is an example of late baroque architecture and sculpture. St Casimir’s church is a marvellous monument of baroque architecture which gave rise to the construction of buildings with domes. The museums of the Upper and the Lower Castles, the Cathedral and the Bell Tower commemorate the foundation of the Capital City. The Radvilu Palace, the Chodkeviciu Palace and the M.K. Ciurlionis house-museum introduce famous personalities in Vilnius and cultural riches which were gathered in Vilnius throughout the centuries. By contrast the KGB Museum records the horrors of post-World War II times.
The modern culture of Vilnius fully reflects the diversity of city life. Evenings of classical music and competitions are held at the Philharmonic Society Hall. Operas, ballets and plays are staged at the Opera and Ballet Theatre, the Youth Theatre, the Academic Drama Theatre. There are seven art galleries and a modern art centre where it is possible to get to know the works of Lithuanian artists and to purchase the work you like. The Lithuanian capital is famous for its commercial fairs and exhibitions.
Almost all hotels and a dormitory for young people are situated in the central part of the city. There are many restaurants and cafйs where you can find a great variety of different foods, from Lithuanian to East European or North American dishes.
There are plenty of shops and department stores selling high-quality goods from all over the world and open twenty-four hours a day. There are several antique shops. Private clinics and beauty salons are rapidly expanding their activities.
The banks in Vilnius are concentrated in the Old Town. There are many currency exchange cenres. One can obtain goods and services using credit cards and travel cheques.
Foreign embassies, business representations and agencies are also being established in the centre of the city.
Vilnius is the gateway to Lithuania and the Baltic States, being situated in an advantageous geographical location in Europe. The airport is within half an hour of the centre of the city. It has direct links with 18 cities and there is regular bus service to 7 countries.
Vilnius is famous not only for its historical past, monuments, churches and green surroundings. There are also many industrial enterprises with an educated labour force. Highly qualified workers produce goods of high precision and quality that use little labour and raw materials: metal-processing machine-tools, calculation and computing facilities, electro-technical and electronic engineering, diesel engines, fuel pumps and systems, etc. At the present time, the free-market economy has basically changed the requirements and manufactured products have to be competitive on the market and to meet consumer demands. The major part of enterprises have had to change their production demands and technology or reconstruct their management. Many prospective investment projects for renewing and expanding production volume, variety and exports are being implemented. However, it has proved difficult to attract the required enormous amount of investment for renewal and reconstruction of the production process in the plants themselves. Therefore, foreign investments of different types of joint ventures, is especially significant and welcome.
Lithuanian Law and other Regulations on Foreign Capital Investments protect the rights of foreign investors, their profits and revenues, dividends and legal interests. Foreign investors have the right to buy land that is not designated for agriculture and they are expected to make use of allowances for profit and taxes.

Monument to the Founder of Vilnius – Grand Duke Gediminas.

St Ann’s Church.

A street in the Old Town.

Vilniusites guarding the Parliament and independence during the tragic events of 13th January 1991.

Scouts of various ages at a meeting.

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