Lithuania

Driving Directions Lithuania

LITHUANIA is the largest of the three former Soviet Baltic Republics. Lithuania is bounded by Latvia, Belarus, Poland, and Russia (Kaliningrad), with a Baltic Sea coastline to the west.

Lithuania is a plains country, broken by low hills with numerous rivers and lakes and many marshes and wetlands, some of which drained. The upland areas are generally to be found in the west, while most of the lakes are in the southern and northeastern parts of the republic.

With its tributaries, the Neman River forms part of the border with Russia and supplies the country with hydroelectric power. Over two-thirds of the country’s people live in cities, towns, or urban areas. Vilnius is Lithuania’s capital and largest city.

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Forests cover about a quarter of the country, which is home to a range of wild animals, such as wolves and wild boar, and many birds, particularly wetland species. The rivers and lakes contain a variety of species of freshwater fish.

Lithuania has a temperate climate but with generally more extreme and variable temperatures in the east. Overall, summers are mild to warm, and winters are cold or very cold, particularly inland, with considerable snowfall. Precipitation occurs throughout the year, but especially in the summer months.

Lithuania was traditionally an agricultural country, and although it underwent considerable industrialization following the Soviet takeover in the 1940s, agriculture is still essential to the economy. Crops include cereals (rye and barley), sugar beet, and potatoes. Cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry are among the livestock animals. Lithuania’s forests, which cover about a quarter of the country, provide valuable timber resources. There is also a small but essential fishing industry.

Lithuania lacks exploitable mineral reserves, and the country is dependent upon imports of oil, although it has some deposits of gypsum and small oil reserves. Oil production has started from a small field at Kretinga west of the country, some 16 kilometers or 10 miles north of Klaipeda. Nuclear power accounts for about half the country’s energy needs, with some additional power from hydroelectric schemes. However, nuclear reactors are old and subject to operational difficulties that are expected to cause problems.

Considerable industrial development took place during the postwar communist years, although adjustments have made sense since the country has progressed towards a free-market economy. Industries and manufacturing include shipbuilding, engineering, food processing, cement, machinery, and electronic equipment production. Amber was found along the Baltic coast and used by Lithuanian craftsmen for making jewelry. Financial scandals involving government members and banking institutions troubled the economy during the 1990s.

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Alternating regions of highlands and lowlands characterize Lithuania’s topography, but the primary feature is a low-lying central plain. Like other nations in the region, continental glaciers formed the Lithuanian landscape during the Pleistocene ice age. No elevation is greater than 305 meters (1,000 feet). Highlands lie to the east and southeast of the central plain, while to the west, the land is hilly but becomes low again along the coast. The plains of the southwestern and central regions are noted for their fertile soil. Lithuania is situated on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate.

Lithuania has a west coast along the Baltic Sea, which is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean. The coastline is only about 108 kilometers (67 miles) long.

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In the northern Birzai region of Lithuania, a high gypsum and limestone content in the local terrain, plus numerous underground rivers, has caused over two thousand sinkholes. The water underground erodes the soil and rock above, causing the ground to cave in. The sinkholes range in size from tiny holes to large, deep craters. The larger sinkholes may be filled with water from the underground rivers. Scientists are studying the sinkholes in this area to determine possible ways to counteract such erosion.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, three countries located on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, are often politically referred to as the Baltic States. After World War I, these three nations became independent countries in 1918 but were involuntarily incorporated into Russia as provinces in 1940. They became fully independent again in 1991. Although Sweden, Finland, and Poland also border on the Baltic Sea, Sweden and Finland are culturally and socially grouped as Scandinavian countries. At the same time, Poland is more closely associated with eastern Europe.

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