History of Lithuania

First inhabitants – deer hunters – settled in the present territory of the country around 9000 AD. The ancient Baltic culture evolved from the local inhabitants and Indo-Europeans. The union of the Baltic tribes created the state of Lithuania, which name first, appeared in the German chronicle “Annales Quedlinburgenses” (Annals of Quedlinburg) in 1009.

Lithuanian is one of the oldest languages in Europe.

The Grand Duke Mindaugas established the first Lithuanian state in 1230. He converted to Christianity briefly and was crowned king of Lithuania in 1252.
The Grand Duke Gediminas, who reigned from 1316 to 1341, is credited with founding Vilnius (1323) at the confluence of Neris and Vilnia rivers, which gained the rights of Magdeburg in 1387, and for a dynasty that united Lithuania and Poland from 1386 until 1795.

Lithuania was the last European pagan country to accept Christianity and was baptised only in 1387. For this reason, Teutonic and Livonian Orders put Lithuania under constant attack for the most of 200 years. Despite that, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a strong political power in Medieval Eastern Europe. By the end of 14th century, it was one of the biggest countries in this part of the continent. Under the rule of Vytautas, the Great its borders stretched as far South as the Black Sea.

In 1410, Duke Vytautas the Great and his cousin Jogaila Wladyslaw II, the King of Poland, decisively beat the German crusaders of the Teutonic Order in the great battle of Tannenberg. After that, the might of the Order was routed.

Lithuania progressively entered European culture. In 1547 the first Lithuanian book “Catechism” by Martynas Mazvydas, as the sign of Protestantism spreading in Lithuania, was published in Karaliaucius.

From the signing of the Lublin Union in 1568 till 1795 Lithuania was part of a confederate state with the Kingdom of Poland, called Rzeczpospolita. In 1579, the region’s oldest university, Vilnius University, was established by the Jesuits. It was one of the most important centres of the Counter-Reformation.

During the Baroque era, a distinctly Lithuanian style was created. The superb interior of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, with its myriad-stuccoed figures, was commissioned by the Lithuanian army commander in 1668.

The Lithuanian-Polish union came under the threat from Prussia, Austria and Russia at the end of the 18th century. An uprising by the Lithuanian patriot Col. Jacob Jasinskis in 1794 was defeated, and most of Lithuania was annexed by Russia in 1795. The new rulers tried to russify the country, closing Vilnius University and banning the publication of Lithuanian books in the Latin alphabet. In the late 19th century, brutal persecution and economic necessity forced thousands of Lithuanian to emigrate. After Russian annexation, Lithuanians became a completely subject people, but they staged large-scale nationalist insurrections in 1812, 1831, 1863, and 1905.

In 1918, at the end of World War I, Lithuania regained its independence. During the decades of Lithuania’s sovereignty between the world wars, the country achieved rapid progress in economical, political and international life.
In 1919, following heavy fighting between Poland, Russia and Lithuania, Poland annexed Vilnius, forcing Lithuania to transfer its capital to Kaunas.
In June 1940 Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union, and at the end of World War II once the independent country became incorporated into the ‘monster’ union. This period in the country’s life is marked by massive and brutal repression. Nearly a quarter of Lithuania’s population was deported to Siberia. Not surprisingly, actions of Soviet rulers provoked the active resistance in the form of guerrilla movement immediately after World War II and the passive resistance, which lasted until the last breath of Soviet Union.
The new regime destroyed the entire economy. Land, banks, industrial enterprises, and trade establishments were nationalised, and culture was sovietised.

The United States and other democratic powers, however, refused to recognise the legality of the Soviet annexation.
Even after more than 50 years under the Soviets, Lithuanians retained the goal of independence. On March 11, 1990, the Republic was again proclaimed, and the statehood was regained when the Soviet Union began crumbling. After half of the century, three-coloured Lithuanian flag was once again hoisted on the Tower of Gediminas in Vilnius.

After the Moscow putsch collapsed, Lithuania won international recognition, it was admitted to the United Nations on Sept. 17, 1991, and began its life as a fair member of the world community.
Accordingly with the Constitution on 14th of February 1993 A. Brazauskas was elected President of the Republic of Lithuania.
Lithuania’s currency, the Litas, was reintroduced in 1993, pegged to the U.S. dollar.
In the same, 1993, year Lithuania was admitted into European Council.
Also in 1993, Lithuania became the first of the three Baltic States to be free of the Russian military presence. The last unit of Russian troops left the country on August 31 of that year.

In February 1994, Lithuania joined the Partnership for Peace program, which was set up by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as the first step for the countries wishing to join the alliance.
In January 1995 the Seimas passed a law that made Lithuanian the official language, prompting criticism from speakers of Polish and Russian.
In May 1995 Lithuania became an associate member of the European Union.
On April 1, 2004, Lithuania was admitted into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
From May 1, 2004, Lithuania is a full-fledged member of the European Union.

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