Lithuania is situated on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea and borders Latvia on the north, Belarus on the east and south, and Poland and the Kaliningrad region of Russia on the southwest. It is a country of gently rolling hills, many forests, rivers and streams, and lakes. Its principal natural resource is agricultural land.
The Liths, or Lithuanians, united in the 12th century under the rule of Mindaugas, who became king in 1251. Through marriage, one of the later Liithuanian rulers became the king of Poland (Ladislaus II) in 1386, uniting the countries. In 1410, the Poles and Lithuanians defeated the powerful Teutonic Knights at Tannenberg. From the 14th to the 16th century, Poland and Lithuania made up one of medieval Europe’s largest empires, stretching from the Black Sea almost to Moscow. The two countries formed a confederation for almost 200 years, and in 1569 they formally united. Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned Poland in 1772, 1792, and 1795. As a consequence, Lithuania came under Russian ruule after the last partition. Russia attempted to immerse Lithuania in Russian culture and language, but anti-Russian sentiment continued to grow. Following World War I and the collapse of Russia, Lithuania declared independence (1918), under German protection.
The republic was then annexed by
The Lithuanian independence movement reemerged in 1988. In 1990, Vytautas Landsbergis, the non-Communist head of the largest Lithuanian popular movement (Sajudis), was elected president. On the same day, the Supreme Council rejected Soviet rule and declared the restoration of Lithuania’s independence, the first Baltic republic to take this action. Confrontation with the Soviet Union ensued along with economic sanctions, but they were lifted after both sides agreed to a face-saving compromise.
Lithuania’s independence was quickly recognized by major European and other nations, including the United States. Thhe Soviet Union finally recognized the independence of the Baltic states on Sept. 6, 1991. UN admittance followed on Sept. 17, 1991. Successful implementation of structural and legislative reforms in Lithuania attracted greater direct foreign investments by the mid-1990s.
In late 2002, Lithuania was accepted for membership in the EU and NATO, and it joined both in 2004. In Jan. 2003 Rolandas Paksas defeated the incumbent, Valdas Adamkus, in the presidential election. It was a surprising upset, given that Adamkus had helped bring about his country’s entry into NA
Lithuanians, whose motherland had experienced such a dramatic history, protect and honour historical legacy and cultural heritage of their country. The National Museum of Lithuania, the oldest in the country, holds the largest repository of cultural heritage in the country. The Old Arsenal located nearby presents the prehistory of the Balts and origins of Lithuanian nation. An open-air Folk Museum in Rumšiškės represents four major ethnographic regions of the country.
The most valuable art collections are held in the Lithuanian Art Museum in the Chodkevičius (Chodkiewicz) and Radvila Palaces, K.Varnelis Home-museum, the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Vilnius, M.K.Čiurlionis National Art Museum, M.Žilinskas Picture Gallery in Kaunas, Klaipėda Picture Gallery.
Horrible repressions of Soviet period and World War II are reflected in the Museum of Genocide Victims, opened in the premises of former KGB headquarters, or the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum in Vilnius. Grūtas Park, an “exile camp” just outside Druskininkai, now features monuments of the Soviet leaders brought here fr
Lithuania is a new and active member of the European Union (since May 1, 2004) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (since March 29, 2004). Lithuania is the only Baltic country with nearly eight hundred years of statehood tradition, while its name was first mentioned almost one thousand years ago, in 1009. Wedged at the dividing line of Western and Eastern civilizations, Lithuania battled dramatically for its independence and survival. Once in the Middle Ages, Lithuania was the largest state in the entire Eastern Europe, where crafts and overseas trade prospered.
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 Hill was used for defense purposes and was called the Upper Castle.
Following the craftsmen in ot
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 with 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.
On March 11th, 1990, the Supreme Council restored Lithuania’s independence.
Nature of Lithuania. Despite the planned and tumultuous urbanisation and the industrialisation (although sometimes little advanced technologically) that have reached the remotest villages, much of the country’s wonderful natural environment has remained. In Lithuanian folk tales man often comes into collision with nature, different plants and beasts. Dark forests and mysterious lakes are fraught with surprises and menacing trials. He who does not consider himself lord of nature gains a victory. He who knows the language of animals and who unselfishly helps a beast, bird or fish wins. Consequently, even the tiniest creature repays a hundredfold to him, awards him with unusual abilities and performs the hardest tasks for him. Lithuanian nature is beautiful and diverse. It is diverse throughout the country, even in the smallest areas of woodland or riversides. The landscapes of our country are very colourful. The chiselled hills and chains of lakes in Eastern Aukstaitija are very different from the landscapes of the Dzukija region with the slowly flowing Nemunas and big, rustling forests through which rapid rivulets cut their way. The hilly woodlands of Zemaitija, with its own lake district, slope down into the vast plains. Even the plains in Suduva are quite different from those in North 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 are absolutely incomparable. 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 protection of nature allows farming and camping on the national parkland. However, there are reserves that can be visited accompanied only by staff members in the park. In the old villages of the parks the natural and architectural environment has changed during the last two centuries not much. The descendants of the farmsteads are still living in almost all the oldest villages and hamlets of the parks. Like their forefathers they understand nature and earn their living in traditional occupations. The visitor can both enjoy a rest, research the nature and take in the picturesque sights right in the national parks.
The Political Life of Lithuania. Lithuania is a Republic governed by Seimas elected for a four-year period. The executive power belongs to the President (elected for 5 years) and the government. The right to vote is granted to citizens over 18 years old.
Environment. Lithuania is the biggest of the three Baltic states and covers an area roughly the same size as Ireland. It borders Latvia in the north, Belarus in the south-east, the Baltic Sea in the west and Poland and the truncated Kaliningrad Region of Russia in the south-west. It’s a predominantly flat country, and its highest point, Juozapinės, measures only 294m (964ft). Lithuania’s Baltic coast extends about 100km (62mi), half of which lies along the extraordinary Curonian Spit – a pencil thin 98km (61mi) long sandbar that’s up to 66m (216ft) high.
Just over one quarter of Lithuania is forested, in particular the south-west of the country. Elk, deer, wild boar, wolf and lynx inhabit the forests, though you’re unlikely to bump into any without some guidance. Lithuania also has about 2000 otters, and Lake Žuvintas, in the south, is an important breeding ground and migration halt for water birds. There are five national parks in Lithuania and a number of nature reserves, the highlight being the Kuršių Nerija National Park, a special environment of high dunes, pine forests, beaches, a lagoon and sea coasts.
The Lithuanian climate is temperate. From May to September daytime highs vary from about 14 to 22°C (57 to 72°F), but between November and March it rarely gets above 4°C (39°F). July and August, the warmest months, are also wet, with days of persistent showers. May, June and September are more comfortable, while late June can be thundery. Slush under foot is something you have to cope with in autumn, when snow falls then melts, and in spring, when the winter snow thaws.
The Environment. Concerned with environmental deterioration, Lithuanian governments have created several national parks and reservations. The country’s flora and fauna have suffered, however, from an almost fanatical drainage of land for agricultural use. Environmental problems of a different nature were created by the development of environmentally unsafe industries, including the Ignalina nuclear power plant, which still operates two reactors similar to those at Chornobyl’ (Chernobyl’ in Russian), and the chemical and other industries that pollute the air and empty wastes into rivers and lakes. According to calculations by experts, about one-third of Lithuanian territory is covered by polluted air at any given time. Problems exist mainly in the cities, such as Vilnius, Kaunas, Jonava, Mazeikiai, Elektrenai, and Naujoji Akmene–the sites of fertilizer and other chemical plants, an oil refinery, power station, and a cement factory. Water quality also is poor. The city of Kaunas, with a population of more than 400,000, still has no water purification plant. Only one-quarter of sewage-contaminated water in the republic is processed because cleaning facilities are not yet available. River and lake pollution also is a legacy of Soviet carelessness with the environment. The Kursiu Marios (Courland Lagoon), for example, separated from the Baltic Sea by a strip of high dunes and pine forests, is about 85 percent contaminated. Beaches in the Baltic resorts, such as the well-known vacation area of Palanga, are frequently closed for swimming because of contamination. Forests affected by acid rain are found in the vicinity of Jonava, Mazeikiai, and Elektrenai, which are the chemical, oil, and power-generation centers.
The climate of Lithuania is transitional between maritime and continental. Weather conditions seem to be unstable, with frequent thaws in winter, and cloudy sky, damp and cool weather in summer. The average annual temperature
is about +6 °C. The average temperature of January is -4.8 °C, and that of July is +17.2 °C. The average annual precipitation level is 626 mm, which is higher on the sea-coast and lower in the eastern part. The climate in Lithuania is suited for horticulture. However, some problems occur with unstable conditions of overwintering and a short vegetation period. The climate of Lithuania is determined by its geographical position in the middle latitudes, near the sea and ocean, with prevailing of the air flows from the west and also by its relief peculiarities. Human activities have the growing impact on the climate of the country. The climates varieties are conditioned by location in the northern part of the middle latitude zone.
According to the climate classification Lithuania belongs to the southwestern sub area of the Atlantics wood continental area. Only Lithuanian coast of the Baltic Sea from the point of climate is similar to the Western Europe and could be referred to the separate South Baltic sub area.
Atmospheric fronts, numbering 160-170 per year, usually determine the whether in Lithuania.
In the early and mid-1990s, Lithuania’s economy went through a dynamic transition from the centralized economy prevalent during Soviet control of Lithuania to a market-driven economy dominated by private enterprise and oriented toward trade with Western Europe and North America. This transition began in 1991, and the volatile first stage–structural adjustment–was largely complete as of 1994. During this period, the economy declined precipitously while the Lithuanian government implemented fundamental economic reforms, including price reform, privatization, government reform, introduction of the litas (pl., litai) as the national currency (for value of the litas–see Glossary), and trade adjustment. Dependence on Russian Despite these grim statistics, Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius was determined to adhere strictly to International Monetary Fund (IMF–see Glossary) recommendations for a speedy transition to a market economy. Slezevicius maintained that former socialist countries that did not rapidly reform fared far worse than those that did. The IMF noted that substantial progress had been achieved in Lithuania between 1992 and 1994 and that, after successfully reducing inflation, the country was ready to turn its attention to reforming its tax, privatization, social security, and finance policies.
Economic recovery began at minimal levels in mid-1993 and continued subsequently as a result of an increase in foreign assistance, loans and investment, trade, and private-sector employment. Most foreign investment came from the United States, Russia, Germany, Britain, Austria, and Poland.
COUNTRY AND PEOPLE
Lithuania is a picturesque country, situated on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea and bordering Latvia on the north, Belorus on the east, and Poland on the south. It is a country of gently rolling hills, many forests, rivers and streams, and deep clear lakes. Its principal natural resource is fertile agricultural land.
The capital of Lithuania is Vilnius, founded in the 13th century and widely known for its contrasting architectural monuments of Western and Eastern influence. Through the centuries Vilnius has remained the center of Lithuania’s intellectual and political life.
The Lithuanians are a distinct group of the Indo-European family of nations, distinct from the Slavic and German branches, with their own ancient culture and language. They inhabited the Baltic shores long before the Christian era and at the dawn of European history had attained a level of civilization equal to that of many other European peoples of those days. The Lithuanian language is one of the oldest living Indo-European languages and is studied in numerous centers of learning throughout the world. Today 80% of the country’s population is of Lithuanian nationality.
WHAT IS GEOGRAPHY?
There are numerous definitions of geography and many misconceptions. Geography is not just the memorization of place names and it is not just map making though both of these activities most certainly are important. Students often try to grasp at a definition using a familiar stem, “geography is the study of .” and insert such descriptors as landscapes, mountains, climates, rivers, and people among others. While a definition of this field of study no doubt includes such subject matter, it is essential for the student to understand geography’s unique way of studying the world. Geography for Life defines the two major perspectives of geography as the spatial and ecological perspectives. These are complemented by the historical and economic perspectives.
One can discover definitions of the field of geography in every social studies or geography textbook. However, the following definitions are anonymous responses from participants at the Geography Summit II which was held at Southwest Texas State University in 1996 and collected by Dr. Ed Fernald of the Florida Geographic Alliance. Geography is:
• a social science that focuses on the spatial distribution of human and physical phenomena;
• the study of the physical world, its inhabitants, the interaction between the two, and the patterns and systems involved;
• the world and all that is in it;
• the study of pattern and processes asociated with the earth;
• the study of relationships between humans and their environment by emphasizing a spatial and environmental perspective at a variety of scales;
• a spatial discipline—it is a perspective that seeks to understand patterns on Earth and the processes that created them;
• the study of humans interacting with their environment including the physical environment, the built environment and socially constructed spaces; and
• a spatial perspective of all human and physical phenomena.
A student can readily see that the word “spatial” appears in these definitions or is implied in all of them. Geography is concerned with where and why things are located as they are. It is concerned with the patterns of phenomena and the processes that created them. Therefore there is no special or specific subject matter which it studies, but rather its subject matter is Earth, described and explained using the spatial perspective. History is somewhat similar because its subject matter is Earth in the historical perspective.
Geography is often described as two parts which make up a whole. That is, geography is dichotomized into:
• Regional Geography, and
• Topical, or Systematic, Geography.
Regional geography focuses on areas of Earth space that have some degree of homogeneity. Regions may be basically physical, human or some combination of both and may vary in size from continents to small ecosystems.
Topical geography considers systematic studies of climate, landforms, economics, and culture among others. Geographers may specialize and call themselves, for example, urban geographers, climatologists, political geographers, biogeographers, and historical geographers. One thing in common to all of them is their focus on the spatial perspective in their studies. They see their subject matter in terms of locational characteristics and seek answers to certain patterns of place or the interactions between places
By the end of the 7th grade course in geography, students should be able to see and understand the world using the “geographic eye” or, in other words, the spatial perspective. This perspective will enable them to understand why location is an important variable in such activities as buying a house, locating a business, understanding an historical event, and planning for the future. It will help them understand the ripples of the global economy as well as the climatic influences of the el Nino. Geography, indeed, has survival value and furthers good citizenship among our students.
Geography is the science of place and space. Geographers ask where things are located on the surface of the earth, why they are located where they are, how places differ from one another, and how people interact with the environment.
There are two main branches of geography: human geography and physical geography. Human geography is concerned with the spatial aspects of human existence – how people and their activity are distributed in space, how they use and perceive space, and how they create and sustain the places that make up the earth’s surface. Human geographers work in the fields of urban and regional planning, transportation, marketing, real estate, tourism, and international business.
Physical geographers study patterns of climates, land forms, vegetation, soils, and water. They forecast the weather, manage land and water resources, and analyze and plan for forests, rangelands, and wetlands. Many human and physical geographers have skills in cartography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
Geographers also study the linkages between human activity and natural systems. Geographers were, in fact, among the first scientists to sound the alarm that human-induced changes to the environment were beginning to threaten the balance of life itself. They are active in the study of global warming, desertification, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, groundwater pollution, and flooding.
Traditionally, geographers have been viewed the same way as cartographers and people who study place names and numbers. Although many geographers are trained in toponymy and cartography, this is not their main preoccupation. Geographers study the spatial and temporal distribution of phenomena, processes and feature as well as the interaction of humans and their environment. As space and place affect a variety of topics such as economics, health, climate, plants and animals, geography is highly interdisciplinary.
Geography as a discipline can be split broadly into two main sub fields: human geography and physical geography. The former focuses largely on the built environment and how space is created, viewed and managed by humans as well as the influence humans have on the space they occupy. The latter examines the natural environment and how the climate, vegetation & life, soil, water and landforms are produced and interact. As a result of the two subfields using different approaches a third field has emerged, which is environmental geography. Environmental geography combines physical and human geography and looks at the interactions between the environment and humans.