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Kaliningrad Oblast, exclave, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Economic recession, Baltic states
Lithuania (Lietuva in Lithuanian), 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.
Lithuania sits on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, across from Sweden. On its northern border is Latvia. To the east and south of the country is Belarus, while to the southwest lie Poland and Kaliningrad Oblast, an exclave (part of a country not connected to the main territory) of Russia.
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). After World War II (1939-1945), 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. In the early years of the 21st century Lithuania emerged as a forward-looking country, joining both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) in the first half of 2004.
For younger readers
Flint, David. The Baltic States. Millbrook, 1992. Historical perspective, for readers in grades 4 to 6.
Kagda, Sakina. Lithuania. Marshall Cavendish, 1997. For middle school and high school readers.
Lithuania: Then and Now. Lerner, 1992. For readers in grades 4 to 7.
Ezergailis, Inta. Nostalgia and Beyond: Eleven Latvian Women Writers. University Press of America, 1997.
Kelertas, Violeta, ed. 'Come into My Time': Lithuania in Prose Fiction, 1970-90. University of Illinois Press, 1992.
Moseley, Christopher, ed. From Baltic Shores. Dufour, 1994. Modern short stories.
Pruul, Kajar, and Darlene Reddaway, eds.Trans. Ritva Poom. Estonian Short Stories. Northwestern University Press, 1995.
Rubulis, Aleksis. Baltic Literatures: A Survey of Finnish, Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian Literatures. University of Notre Dame Press, 1970. History and criticism; includes texts in translation.
Ashbourne, Alexandria. Lithuania: The Rebirth of a Nation, 1991-1994. Lexington, 1999. A study of Lithuania's transition to democracy and independence.
Iwaskiw, Walter R., ed. Estonia, Latvia, & Lithuania: Country Studies. Library of Congress, 1997. A concise survey of the history, economy, society, and culture of each nation.
Kirby, David. The Baltic World 1772-1993: Europe's Northern Periphery in an Age of Change. Addison-Wesley, 1995. A highly readable account of the uneven progress toward modernization and the forging of national identities over the past 200 years.
Lieven, Anatol. The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Path to Independence. Yale University Press, 1994. A portrait of the Baltic states and peoples, their history and culture, and a personal report of their struggles since 1989.
Misiunas, Romuald, and Rein Taagepera. The Baltic States: Years of Dependence 1940-1990. University of California Press, 1993. A concise and well-documented account of the Soviet period in the Baltic states.
Noble, John. Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania. Lonely Planet, 1997, 2000. Travel guide.
Senn, Alfred E. Lithuania Awakening. University of California Press, 1990. A first-hand report of the dramatic events in Lithuania in 1988.
Suziedelis, Saulius. Historical Dictionary of Lithuania. Scarecrow, 1997. Brief history and chronology, along with dictionary entries.
Taagepera, Rein, B.Sc., M.A., Ph.D. Professor emeritus of Political Science, University of California, Irvine, and University of Tartu, Estonia. Author of Estonia: Return to Independence and other books.
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