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 country of plains, 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 the majority of the lakes are in the southern and northeastern parts of the republic.

The Neman River, with its tributaries, 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. On the whole, 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.

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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 reserves of oil. Oil production has started from a small field at Kretinga in the 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. The nuclear reactors are old, however, and subject to operational difficulties that expected to continue to cause problems.

Considerable industrial development took place during the postwar communist years, although adjustments have had to make since the country has progressed towards a free-market economy. Industries and manufacturing include shipbuilding, engineering, food processing, production of cement, machinery, and electronic equipment. Amber 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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