/ lɪθueɪniə /
Country in N Europe, bounded N by Latvia, E by Belarus, S by Poland and the Kaliningrad area of Russia, and W by the Baltic Sea.
Under the 1992 constitution, there is a 141-deputy, popularly elected supreme council (Seimas), whose members elect a chair to serve as state president and a prime minister.
Lithuania became a single nation at the end of the 12th century. The Teutonic Knights (German crusaders) who attempted to invade in the 13th century were successfully driven back, and Lithuania extended its boundaries in the 14th century to reach almost as far as Moscow and the Black Sea. In 1386 Lithuania was joined with Poland in a mutually beneficial confederation. The two eventually became a single state 1569, and came under the control of the Russian tsar 1795. Revolts 1831 and 1863 failed to win independence for the state, and a more organized movement for the independence of Lithuania emerged in the 1880s. When self-government was demanded 1905, this was refused by the Russians.
struggle for independence
During World War I Lithuania was occupied by German troops. After the war, it declared independence but the USSR claimed Lithuania as a Soviet republic 1918. Soviet forces were overthrown by the Germans, Poles, and nationalist Lithuanians 1919, and a democratic republic was established. This was in turn overthrown by a coup 1926 and the new president, Antanas Smetona, assumed increasing authority. In 1939 Germany took control of part of Lithuania, handing it to the USSR later the same year. In 1940 Lithuania was incorporated as a constituent republic of the USSR, designated the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1941, when German troops had invaded the USSR, Lithuania’s nationalists returned briefly to power and assisted the Nazis in the swift systematic slaughter of more than 130,000 Lithuanian Jews, communists, and other “undesirables”. The Germans occupied Lithuania 1941–44, after which Soviet rule was restored.
As in the other Baltic republics, there was strong nationalist dissent from 1980, influenced by the Polish example and prompted by the influx of Russian workers and officials. A popular front, the Sajudis (Lithuanian Restructuring Movement), was formed Oct 1988 to campaign for increased autonomy, and in the same month the republic's supreme soviet (state assembly), to the chagrin of Russian immigrants, decreed Lithuanian the state language and readopted the flag of the independent interwar republic. In Dec 1989 the republic's Communist Party split into two, with the majority wing formally breaking away from the Communist Party of the USSR and establishing itself as a social-democratic, Lithuanian-nationalist body. A multiparty system was established and the Sadjudis-backed pro-separatist candidates secured a majority in the Feb–March 1990 elections. In March 1990 Vytautas Landsbergis became president and Lithuania unilaterally declared its independence. The USSR responded by imposing an economic blockade, whi
ch was lifted July 1990 after the supreme council agreed to suspend the independence declaration.
Criticized by militant nationalists as being too conciliatory toward Moscow, Prime Minister Kazimiera Prunskiene resigned Jan 1991 and went into exile. She was replaced by Albertas Shiminas. In the same month, Soviet paratroopers briefly seized political and communications buildings in Vilnius, killing 13 civilians.
After the failure of the Aug 1991 attempted anti-Gorbachev coup in the USSR, Lithuania's declaration of independence was recognized by the Soviet government and Western nations Sept 1991. The new state was granted membership in the United Nations. At the same time, the Communist Party was outlawed, and Gediminas Vagnorius took over as prime minister. The Lithuanian Supreme Council (parliament) chose Aleksandras Abisala as the new prime minister when a vote of confidence went against Vagnorious in July. In the Nov 1991 elections the Democratic Labour Party won the majority vote, and Bronislovas Lubys was appointed prime minister. In Feb 1993 the former communist leader Algirdas Brazauskas was directly elected president, pledging more gradual and less painful free-market reforms. Adolfas Slezevicius replaced Lubys as prime minister in March. The Sajudis, which had been defeated in the last elections, was replaced by a new party, the Homeland Union–Lithuanian Conservatives (Tevynes Santara), led by former presid
ent Landsbergis. During 1993 the last Russian troops departed, and in 1994 Lithuania applied for NATO membership.
A republic in northeastern Europe on the Baltic Sea; Also called: Lietuva.