Lithuania in crossroads of cultures

Lithuania – Central European country, first mentioned in 1009. In XIII century, under the rule of Mindaugas, Lithuania united most of the free Baltic tribes and some of the Eastern Slavic lands into one country. Historically established name – Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In XIV-XV centuries this country covered almost all contemporary Lithuania, Belarus, biggest part of Ukraine and part of modern Russia (lands of Smolensk).

In XVI century Lithuania and Poland merged into one state – Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita), however in the end of XVIII century it was divided between Austria, Prussia and Russia. Biggest part of the territory was taken by Russia and remained in its composition until WWI. In 1918 Lithuania re-established itself as free country in ethnic Lithuanian lands. In 1940 it was annexed by Soviet Union and in 1941 country briefly restored statehood, however in the same year it was abolished by Nazi Germany, but at 1944 soviets returned again. State’s independence was restored in 1990.

Since old times Lithuania was famous for national and religious tolerance. Established on the grounds of Lithuanian nation it quickly expanded into lands of old Russians (Rusyns), partly by Lithuanian and later by Polish influence independent Ukrainian and Belarussian nations crystallized themselves. In the juncture of XIV-XV centuries Karaims and Tatars were invited to ethnic Lithuania, who were considered as a caste of privileged warriors. Germans and Polish also moved to the state, European Jews and Russian old believers fled from persecution. At that time, when religious wars were blazing in Europe, in XVI century Tolerance act was signed, which equated rights of Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Protestants. Unique case in country dominated by Catholics – Muslim Mosques.

Today Lithuanians – one of two Baltic tribes, near Latvians, which remained in the world and formed into nations. In Lithuania this is the main nation, which makes up 86% of country’s population. Above 5% are Polish, almost 5% – Russians, further aligns Belarussians, Ukrainians, Tatars, Germans and other ethnic communities.

Most of Lithuania’s believers are Catholics, according to latest census they make up 77% of population, Orthodox Christians – 4%, representatives of other faiths less than 1%. Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Old Believers, Lutherans, Reformats, Judaists, Muslims, Karaims, Baptists, Pentecosts, Adventists and New Apostolic Church are recognized by the state, while community of an old Baltic faith – Romuva is actively pursuing for it.

Lithuania has four unique cities with medieval, renaissance and baroque type of old towns – capital Vilnius with geographical centre of Europe nearby, Trakai, Kaunas and Kėdainiai. Main port city – Klaipeda – belonged to Germany for a long time, stands out with still remaining German architecture, though oldest buildings were destroyed during wars. Authentic complex of castle mounds remains in oldest capital Kernavė to this day, according to data of 2017, in whole Lithuania there are 941 castle mounds. Eleven castles are preserved or restored, in record of cultural heritage – 580 manors.

Distinct monument of nature and culture – Kuršių nerija, which settlements merged into one city Neringa. Lithuania has plenty of health resorts – Neringa, Palanga and Šventoji near seashore, Druskininkai and Birštonas near the middle of country’s largest river – Nemunas, Molėtai and Palūšė – near lakes, these are only few more widely known recreational territories of Lithuania.

Lithuania has 5 ethnographic regions: Aukštaitija (Highlands), Žemaitija (Samogitia), Lithuania Minor, Suvalkija and Dzūkija, each of them – with their dialect, history, clothes, songs and folklore. In southeast Lithuania (Vilnija) you will meet local Polish community with its distinct cultural and linguistic identity, in which Lithuanian, Polish and Belarussian words sometimes are compatible. To this day Karaims are living in Trakai, Tatars in Nemėžis, memory of Scottish community still lives on in Kėdainiai.

Lithuanians – nation that loves freedom, knows its cost and open to the world. Lithuania belongs to NATO, European Union, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Protected by military shield, this country actively participates in global economic race, by attracting foreign investments and developing its economy.

Lithuania will really intrigue both, lovers of history and culture, amazing landscapes, and distinctive cuisine of every region is waiting for gourmets – from zeppelins (Cepelinai) to Samogitian kastinys (sour cream sauce), from Karaimian kibinai (pastry stuffed with lamb) to sweet Tatarian šimtalapis (one hundred leaf pie). Lithuania – great country, which is worth visiting.