Lithuania is a country in northeastern Europe. Along with Latvia and Estonia, two countries to the north, Lithuania is one of the Baltic states, and the largest of the three. Vilnius, the capital and largest city of Lithuania, is located in the southeastern portion of the country near the border with Belarus.
The country’s climate is dominated by marine influences, but conditions are more variable in the eastern portion of the republic. In the western region the summers are cooler and the winters are milder. Average annual precipitation ranges from less than 600 mm in the center of the country to more than 850 mm in the west. Three-fourths of the precipitation consists of rain. Fog is common. In winter, freezing rain or snowstorms can occur.
After WWII, Lithuania remained part of the Soviet Union and was controlled by the communists politically and economically for more than four decades. When the USSR collapsed in 1991 Lithuania regained its independence. The following year the country adopted a new constitution and held its first post-Soviet democratic elections.
Through much of the 1990s the nation worked to convert its economy from a governmentally controlled socialist model to a free-market system. Economic recession, inflation, and unemployment were serious problems. But the situation has steadily improved.
The country is filled with forests, rivers, and lakes. The people are mostly ethnic Lithuanians and members of the Roman Catholic Church. They are proud of their independence, their language, and their distinct cultural traditions. Once a mostly rural populace reliant on agriculture, today Lithuania has a modern European economy.
Lithuania was once a much larger country—it also included the area that is now Belarus and much of Ukraine. It became an independent republic in 1918, but in 1940 was taken over and annexed by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
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