Lithuania - Complete Report
GeographyLithuania is the largest of the three Baltic countries. It is located on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea at 56 00 N and 24 00 E. Lithuania covers 65,300 square kilometers and 99 kilometers of coastline. It borders Latvia in the north, Belarus in the southeast, and Poland and Russia in the southwest. In the southeast lies Lithuania’s capitol, Vilnius (Coutsoukis).
Nature has been generous to Lithuania. Although it does not have any great forest or mountains, the country is known for its beautiful landscapes. Lithuania’s hills and plains are great for farming. The land is used for: 12% permanent crops, 7% permanent pastures, 31% forest and woodlands, and 35% arable land (Coutsoukis). Lithuania has hundreds of small rivers and 3,000 lakes that carry water from the Baltic Sea. The lakes cover about .5% of Lithuania. The longest and largest river is the Neman. The largest fresh water lake is Kauno Morios, and the deepest is 260 feet deep and is the Tauraghai (World Book). Lithuania’s famous, “amber coast,” called the Curonian Split, produces the country’s largest resource (Lithuanian Tourist Board).
Lithuania can be broken down into eight sections. Its highland in the east, Aukstaitija. This section has pine forests, hills, and hundreds of lakes. Zomaitiji, of the northwest, is noted for its dialect, roadside shrines, and local culture. Between Aukstaitija and Zomaitiji are the central lowlands that have the largest agriculture. The southern region, east of the Neman River, is the hilly Dzukija. On the other side of the Neman River is Suvalkija, with large lakes and agriculture. The Kaunas Region is generally flat and farmed, except for the steep hills bordering the Neman River Valley (Lonely Planet). Finally, the Vilnius Region contains the capitol and the highest hill, Juozapine, at 294 meters (Ramunas).
The climate in Lithuania is a mixture between maritime and continental. Strong winds blow from the North Atlantic Ocean bringing mild temperatures in the east during winter. The coldest month in Lithuania is January, with temperatures that average from 27 °F on the seacoast, and 21 °F in the east. In July, Lithuania’s hottest month, temperatures are averaged at 61 °F on the coast, and 64 °F in the east (World Book). In 1998, there were 1,635 hours of sunshine, 757 millimeters of total precipitation, and an average of 81% humidity (Ramunas).
EconomyLithuania has made steady progress in developing its economy since independence in September 1991. To ensure a stabile economy, Lithuania and the Baltic Countries launched a land and market reform in November of 1991. In the reform over 40% of the government land was given to private owners. Before the reform only 5% of the total exports went to the West; now the figure is over 40% (CIA).
With 16 million acres of total land, about 8.6 million acres are used for agriculture. Lithuania has always been able to feed its citizens. Lithuania consumes only 40% of their agricultural output and is able to export the rest (CIA). The most important branch of agriculture in Lithuania is farming. Dairy, however, dominates Lithuanian farming and takes place throughout the country. The nation’s cattle, sheep, pigs, and chicken provide enough meat, eggs, and milk for exporting (Library of Congress).
A good amount of crop farming also occurs. Farmers plant cereal grains such as wheat, barley, and oats in the western and central parts of the country. They also produces potatoes, and sugar beets, which can be refined into sugar. Flax is also grown in the eastern part of the country. This plant is used in textile mills (Library of Congress 2).
The reform in 1991 turned the huge state collectives into privately owned farms. This is called privatizing. They changed the control and ownership from public to private. To increase its output Lithuania has turned to the United States to obtain up-to-date farm equipment and techniques. Since its independence, foreign agriculture experts from all over have helped Lithuania to modernize its farming (CIA).
The fishing industry has also been a success for Lithuania. Roughly 89% of Lithuania’s catch comes from the fish grounds of the Baltic Sea, Barent Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. Using trawlers, which drag on the ocean floor, they bring in herring, cod, and flounder. The lakes in Lithuania are also used to raise carp and eel (CIA).
The main industries are food processing, timber, oil processing, machinery, construction materials, chemicals, and light industry. The food processing industries include the production and packing of sugar, bread, confectionery, alcohol, beer, tobacco, and vegetable oil (Library of Congress 1).
Vilnius and Kaunas are the two big cities where textile mills produce knitwear, linen, cotton and silk fabrics, carpets, stockings, leather goods, and footwear. Large amounts of these products are exported to other European countries. Siauliali is involved in the production of television parts, computers, and bicycles. The raw material for these supplies is imported from the Soviet Union, and most are exported to the Russian market. Lithuania’s main imports are machinery, petroleum, natural gas, and chemicals. Its exports include clothing, meat, milk, wheat, computers, and fish (Library of Congress 1).
HistoryThe Lithuanians, with the Latvians, are survivors of the Baltic family of peoples who lived in the region in ancient times and traded with the Romans, primarily in amber. Lithuania became a united nation and an established state by Duke Mindaugas during the period of 1236-1263. Mindaugas’ successors founded an empire extending as far south as the Black Sea.
Grand Duke Gediminas, successor of Mindaugas, started the long-term expansion of Lithuania from 1316 to 1314. He also founded Lithuania’s capitol, Vilnius. In 1386 Gediminas’ son, Grand Duke Jogaila, accepted the Polish crown. He introduced Christianity, and established a 400 year personal union between Poland and Lithuania. Lithuania was the last country to convert over to Christianity. Jogaila’s reign in Poland started a long period of Lithuanian-Polish common history, which lasted up to the eighteenth century (Scantours).
Despite all the changes brought by Jogaila, the people supported Jogaila’s cousin, Vytautas. His cousin helped him fight the Teutonic Knights (Group of German Crusaders that tried to convert other countries to Christianity) before converting to Christianity. The conflict of power evolved between the two relatives. Jogaila realized this, and to spare civil war, he named Vytantas, Duke of Lithuania in 1392 (Rodgers 27).
Vytantas expanded the empire from the Black Sea to Moscow. In 1410, Lithuania and Polish armies joined together and drove the Teutonic Knights away forever. However, in the 1400’s a new enemy emerged. The new enemy, the Russians, were starting to seize Lithuania’s land. Lithuania’s demand for help from Poland started the unity between the two countries. In 1569, the two were merged into a Lithuania-Polish Commonwealth (Samalavicius 63).
During the eighteenth century, the Commonwealth was struggling economically, socially, and politically. This was due to the wars on the borders with Russia, Sweden, and Turkey. By the end of the eighteenth century, the Commonwealth was unable to defend its borders. Russia had conquered all of Lithuania and Poland in 1795 (Vardys 394).
In the nineteenth century, Lithuania was involved in two Polish rebellions against Russia’s rule. The Russians began to intensify the “Russification”, lead by governor general, Mikhail Murray. Russians began to persecute Catholics. Their goal was to get rid of all traces of ancient Lithuania. The Russian language was imposed along with the Russian culture. Lithuanians had to follow the Russian law, which include the orthodox religion (Samalavicius 124). However, many protested against this law and continued to write and speak the Lithuanian language.
Near the beginning of World War I (1914-1918) in 1915, the German army occupied Lithuania. Lithuania saw this as an opportunity to free them selves from Russian rule. Lithuania regained its independence on February 16, 1918. Germany recognized this independence. Lithuania was proclaimed a democratic republic of May 1920. Followed by the admittance into the League of Nations in 1921 (Ramunas), there were many struggles for years dealing with the independence of Lithuania. Lithuania lost its capitol, Vilnius, to Poland. Kaunas became the new capitol for 20 years. With the function of the Seimas reform, it gave hope to the people. The Seimas introduced the currency (litas), passed favorable laws, financial systems, and organized land reforms. The economy of Lithuania soon grew with other European countries because of the reform (Scantours).
World War II began in 1939, with Germany invading Poland on the first of September, during the same year German attempts were made to draw Lithuania into military action against Poland. Lithuania chose not to attack Poland for their capitol, but to stay neutral. In result, Lithuania was secretly divided on September 28, 1939, but later Germany sold its share for seven and a half million dollars to the Soviet Union.
From 1914 to 1943, the Nazis set up concentration camps where some 200,000 Lithuanians were put to death. 170,000 of them were Jews. Large Jewish communities were completely wiped out. Lithuanians would try to save the Jews, but ended up sacrificing their own lives (Samalavicius).
With unexpected losses in Russia, Germany had abandoned the Baltic region. In 1944, the Red Army of the Russians had reoccupied Lithuania. Despite the lack of wealth, money, and men, the Lithuanians fought Russia. Russia gained control through deportation. It is said that some 200,000 people were deported, and only half of them made it to the labor camps (Rodgers 36).
In the 1980s, Russia’s economy was in the hole. With the country in shatters, leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the reform policies restructuring. Through these policies, the people were encouraged to voice their opinions and help reform the Soviet system. This led to movement for independence (Rodgers 37). In February 1990, Sajudis (Lithuanian Reform Party) won free parliamentary elections, and on September 6, 1991, Lithuania declared itself as the independent Republic of Lithuania. Lithuania was admitted into the United Nations in September 1991. In February 1994, Lithuania joined the partnership of NATO as a first step for Lithuania and other countries forming an alliance.
GovernmentThe government of Lithuania is parliament democracy. On March 11, 1990 Lithuania declared its independence from the Soviet Union. On September 6, 1991 the Soviet Union recognized Lithuania’s independence. Lithuanian adopted its constitution on October 25, 1992. Their legal system is based on civil law system, with no judicial review of legislative acts.
The government consists of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. The leader of the executive branch is the president (CIA). The president, elected for a term of five years and a maximum of two consecutive terms, is head of state. (Library of Congress) The Lithuanians borrowed the French model of the presidency, and then adapted it to their needs. Candidates must be at least forty years old. To be elected in the first round, fifty percent of the voters must participate and a candidate must receive more than half of the votes cast. If fifty percent of the voters do not participate, a plurality wins the presidency unless it constitutes less than one-third of the total vote (Library of Congress 2). Today’s “plurality system” of voting forces voters to chose between “throwing away a vote” on a desirable but unelectable candidate and selecting the “lesser of two evils” (Board of Regents). If the first round does not produce a president, a second round is held within two weeks between the two top candidates. A plurality vote is sufficient to win (Library of Congress 2).
The president also selects the prime minister (with the approval of the Siemas), approves ministerial candidates, and appoints the commander in chief of the armed forces – with legislative confirmation. The president resolves basic foreign policy issues and can grant military and diplomatic ranks, appoint diplomats without legislative approval, and issue decrees subject to the legislature’s right to later overturn a decree by legislative action (Library of Congress 2).
Finally, the president has considerable powers to influence the judicial branch. The president has the right to nominate (and the Seimas to approve the nomination of) three justices to the Constitutional Court and all justices to the Supreme Court. The president also appoints, with legislative approval, judges of the Court of Appeals. However, legislative confirmation is not required for the appointment or transfer of judges in local, district, and special courts (Library of Congress 2).
Currently President Valdas Adamkus is in office. He was elected February 26, 1998 (CIA). Valdas Adamkus lived in Hinsdale, Illinois for twenty-five years. He was the head of the Midwest Region EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).
Four years ago he gave up his U.S. citizenship and became President of Lithuania. (Adamkus). Valdas Adamkus won with 50.4 % of the vote (CIA). He is listed in Ripley’s Believe It or Not as the president of a country who lived more years away from the country, than in it. He is married, but has no children. His wife, however, refused to give up her U.S. citizenship and resides in Hinsdale, Illinois. She visits him often. He has a sister, Violetta, and she is one of the directors of the World Lithuanian Center. She gave us some of the items for our project including the currency that she had from the trip she took to Lithuania a week before the interview. She said that most Lithuanians in the U.S. live in Illinois in one of these cities: Lemont, Hinsdale, Downers Grove, and Lockport (Adamkus).
The head of the government is Premier Algirdas Brazauskas. He was put in office July 3, 2001. The cabinet consists of the Council of Ministers; the president on the nomination of the premier appoints them. The president on the approval of the Parliament appoints the premier (CIA).
The legislative branch is a unicameral parliament or Seimas. The term is four years. There are 141 seats; 71 members are directly elected by popular vote, 70 are elected by proportional representation (CIA). Proportional representation is the voting system used in most Western democracies and is widely considered to be fairer and more democratic than the current U.S. system (Amy).
Proportional representation systems come in several varieties, but they all share two basic characteristics. First, they use multi-member districts. Instead of electing one member of the legislature in each small district, proportional representation uses much larger districts. These larger districts elect several members at once, approximately five or ten. Second, the proportion of votes a party receives determines which candidates win the seats in these multi-member districts. If there is a ten-member proportional representation district in which the Democratic candidates win 50% of the vote, they would receive five of those ten seats. With 30% of the vote, the Republicans would get three seats. And if a third party received the other 20% of the votes, it would get the remaining two seats. The United States, Canada, and Great Britain are the only Western democracies that continue to cling to winner-take-all arrangements (Amy 1).
The judicial branch consists of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court checks both the legislative and the executive branches of government by ruling on whether their legislation and/or actions are constitutional. The court consists of nine justices appointed by the legislature, three each from the nominees of the president, the parliamentary chairman, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court. The president nominates the chief justice of the Constitutional Court. Cases for consideration by the Constitutional Court, however, may be brought only by one-fifth of the membership of the Seimas, the ordinary courts, or the president of the republic (Library of Congress 2). Parliament appoints the judges in the Supreme Court, and Court of Appeals (CIA).
In the Lithuanian government they also have diplomatic representation from the U.S. The chief of mission is Ambassador John F. Tefft (CIA). Following the terrorist attacks on the U.S.A. on September 11, 2001, it was confirmed on November 1, 2001 that anthrax was sent to the U.S. embassy in Lithuania – the first case of its kind in Europe (Palmen).
The organizational structure of the government of Lithuania is similar to that of the United States. Its new constitution is that of a presidential democracy with separation of powers and a system of checks and balances. If you compare the three branches of government of Lithuania with the branches of the United States of America’s government, you will notice the similarities (Library of Congress 1).
- Adamkus, Violetta. Personal Interview. 18 September 2001.
- Amy, Douglas J. Proportional Representation Library. Mount Holyoke College. 11 October 2001.
- Amy, Douglas J (1). What is PR?. Mount Holyoke College. 11 October 2001.
- Board of Regents. Voting for better voting. University of Wisconsin. 15 October 2001.
- CIA. The World Factbook – Lithuania. 19 September 2001.
- Coutsoukis, Photius. Lithuania Geography 2000. 01 Nov. 2000. 6 Nov. 2001
- Library of Congress. Lithuania Fact Book. 17 October 2001.
- Library of Congress 1. Lithuania Fact Book. 17 October 2001.
- Library of Congress 2. Lithuania Fact Book. 17 October 2001.
- Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Hawthorn Australia. 2000.
- Palmen, Arnold. Anthrax in Lithuania US embassy. BBC News. 1 November 2001.
- Ramunas, B. Lithuania History and Geography. June 1998. 17 Sept. 2001.
- Rodgers, Mary. Lithuania. New York: Lerner, 1992
- Samalavicius, Stasys. An Outline of Lithuanian History. Vilnius, 1995
- Scantours Ltd. Lithuanian History. 1.10 (1967). 20 October 2001.
- Vardys, Stanley. “Lithuania.” The World Book Encyclopedia. 1993 ed.
- World Book Inc.: “Lithuania.” The World Book Encyclopedia. 12 vol. U.S.A. 1988.
- Amy, Douglas J (1). What is PR?. Mount Holyoke College. 11 October 2001.