Lithuania,Lietuva, officially Republic of Lithuania, republic (1994 est. pop. 3,848,000), 25,174 sq mi (65,201 sq km), N central Europe, from 1940 to 1991 a constituent republic of the USSR. It borders on the Baltic Sea (W), Latvia (N), Belarus and Poland (E), and the Kaliningrad oblast (SW, a Russian exlcave). The capital and largest city is Vilnius; other large cities include Kaunus and Klaipeda (Memel). Lithuania is a flatland drained by the Nemen R. Dairying, stock raising, and the growing of such crops as grains and flax are agriculturally important. Among its industries are shipbuilding, metallurgy, food processing, and the manufacture of machinery, textiles, and chemicals. The majority of the population is Lithuanian; minorities include Russians and Poles. Lithuanian is the official language, and Russian and Polish are spoken. Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism are the main faiths
Vilnius city (1989 pop. 582,000), capital of Lithuania, N central Europe, on the Neris R. Its industries include machine building and food processing. Lithuania's capital from 1323, and the site of one of Europe's oldest universities, Vilnius declined after Lithuania and Poland were merged (16th cent.). After 1795 Russia ruled it. Poland and Lithuania disputed the city from 1918 to 1938; in 1939 it was restored to Lithuania, which was forcibly annexed by the USSR (1940-91). During World War II, Vilnius was occupied (1941-44) by the Germans, whose virtual extermination of the Jewish population ended its long tradition as a leading E European center of Jewish learning.
Kaunascity (Russ. Kuvno), central Lithuania, a port at the confluence of the Niemen and Neris (Viliya) rivers. In the city, which is an industrialand commercial center, textiles, processed food, metal goods, and machinery are produced. Kaunas is the site of an agricultural school, a polytechnic institute, and several museums. Among its many points of interest are the ruins of a 14th -century castle, the Lithuanian-Gothic Vytautas Church (15th century), and a 17th century monastery.
Most likely founded in 1000AD, Kaunas was fortified (13th-14th century) against the Teutonic Knights by the Lithuanians. Russia, a result of the third partition of Poland, then occupied it passed over to Poland late in the 16th century, in 1795. From 1920 until 1940 the city was the capital of independent Lithuania. During World War II Kaunas was annexed by the USSR (1940), Kaunas was occupied by the Germans from 1941 until 1944, during this time the Germans exterminated most of it's population. Kaunas belonged to the Lithuanian SSR from 1944 to 1991, when it became a part of a newly independent Lithuania.
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