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Facts


Population: 2,848 million(2017)
Area: 65 300 km²
Capital City: Vilnius


About Lithuania
Lithuania, officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country and the southernmost of Europe’s Baltic states, a former Soviet bloc nation bordering Poland, Latvia and Belarus. Its capital, Vilnius, near Belarus’ border, is known for its medieval Old Town. It also has Gothic, Renaissance and baroque architecture, and 18th-century cathedral built on a pagan temple site. Hilltop Gediminas’ Tower, a symbol of the city and the nation, offers sweeping views.
Since its independence, Lithuania has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russian exclave) to the southwest.


Currency

The Lithuanian litas was the currency of Lithuania, until 1 January 2015, when it was replaced by the euro.

Climate


Lithuania’s climate, which ranges between maritime and continental, is relatively mild. Average temperatures on the coast are −2.5 °C (27.5 °F) in January and 16 °C (61 °F) in July. In Vilnius the average temperatures are −6 °C (21 °F) in January and 17 °C (63 °F) in July. During the summer, 20 °C (68 °F) is common during the day while 14 °C (57 °F) is common at night; in the past, temperatures have reached as high as 30 or 35 °C (86 or 95 °F). Some winters can be very cold. −20 °C (−4 °F) occurs almost every winter. Winter extremes are −34 °C (−29 °F) in coastal areas and −43 °C (−45 °F) in the east of Lithuania.
The average annual precipitation is 800 mm (31.5 in) on the coast, 900 mm (35.4 in) in the Samogitia highlands and 600 mm (23.6 in) in the eastern part of the country. Snow occurs every year, it can snow from October to April. In some years sleet can fall in September or May. The growing season lasts 202 days in the western part of the country and 169 days in the eastern part. Severe storms are rare in the eastern part of Lithuania but common in the coastal areas.
The longest records of measured temperature in the Baltic area cover about 250 years. The data show warm periods during the latter half of the 18th century, and that the 19th century was a relatively cool period. An early 20th century warming culminated in the 1930s, followed by a smaller cooling that lasted until the 1960s. A warming trend has persisted since then.


Languages


The official language is Lithuanian, other languages, such as Polish, Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian, are spoken in the larger cities, and several municipalities such as Šalčininkai District Municipality, Vilnius District Municipality and Visaginas Municipality. Yiddish is spoken by members of the tiny remaining Jewish community in Lithuania. According to the Lithuanian population census of 2011, about 85% of the country’s population speak Lithuanian as their native language, 7,2% are native speakers of Russian and 5,3% of Polish. About 39% of Lithuanian citizens speak Russian as a foreign language, 20% – English, 9% – German, 6% – Polish, 3% – French. Most Lithuanian schools teach English as the first foreign language, but students may also study German, or, in some schools, French or Russian. Schools where Russian or Polish are the primary languages of education exist in the areas populated by these minorities. Minority schools are public, where the education is free (taxpayer-funded).


Economy


Lithuania has open and mixed economy that is classified as high-income economy by the World Bank. According to data from 2016, the three largest sectors in Lithuanian economy are – services (68.3% of GDP), industry (28.5%) and agriculture (3.3%). World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report ranks Lithuania 41st (of 137 ranked countries).
Lithuania joined NATO in 2004, EU in 2004, Schengen in 2007 and OECD in 2018.
On 1 January 2015, euro became the national currency replacing litas at the rate of EUR 1.00 = LTL 3.45280.
Agricultural products and food made 18.3%, chemical products and plastics – 17.8%, machinery and appliances – 15.8%, mineral products – 14.7%, wood and furniture – 12.5% of exports. According to data from 2016, more than half of all Lithuanian exports go to 7 countries including Russia (14%), Latvia (9,9%), Poland (9,1%), Germany (7,7%), Estonia (5,3%), Sweden (4,8%) and United Kingdom (4,3%). Export generated 74 percent of Lithuania’s GDP in 2016.
Lithuanian GDP experienced very high real growth rates for decade up to 2009, peaking at 11.1% in 2007. As a result, the country was often termed as a Baltic Tiger. However, 2009, due to Global financial crisis marked experienced a drastic decline – GDP contracted by 14.9% and unemployment rate reached 17.8% in 2010. After the decline of 2009, Lithuanian annual economic growth has been much slower compared to pre-2009 years. According to IMF, financial conditions are conducive to growth and financial soundness indicators remain strong. The public debt ratio in 2016 fell to 40 percent of GDP, to compare with 42.7 in 2015 (before global finance crisis – 15 percent of GDP in 2008).


On average, more than 95% of all foreign direct investment in Lithuania comes from European Union countries. Sweden is historically the largest investor with 20% – 30% of all FDI in Lithuania. FDI into Lithuania spiked in 2017, reaching its highest ever recorded number of greenfield investment projects. In 2017, Lithuania was third country, after Ireland and Singapore by the average job value of investment projects. The US was the leading source country in 2017, 24.59% of total FDI. Next up are Germany and the UK, each representing 11.48% of total project numbers.
In the period between 2004 and 2016, one out of five Lithuanians left the country, mostly because of insufficient income situation or seeking the new experience and studies abroad. Long term emigration and economy growth has resulted in noticeable shortages on the labor market and growth in salaries being larger than growth in labor efficiency. Unemployment rate in 2017 was 8.1%.
As of 2018, Lithuanian mean wealth per adult is $24,600, while total national wealth is US$57 billion. As of second quarter of 2018, the average gross (pre-tax) monthly salary in Lithuania is 927 euros(US$1,075) translating to 722 euros net (after tax), while average pension is 307 euros per month. Average wage adjusted for purchasing power parity, is around 1912 USD per month, one of the lowest in EU. Although, cost of living in the country also is sufficiently less with the price level for household final consumption expenditure (HFCE) – 63, being 39% lower than EU average – 102 in 2016.
Lithuania has a flat tax rate rather than a progressive scheme. According to Eurostat, the personal income tax (15%) and corporate tax (15%) rates in Lithuania are among the lowest in the EU. The country has the lowest implicit rate of tax on capital (9.8%) in the EU. Corporate tax rate in Lithuania is 15% and 5% for small businesses. 7 Free Economic Zones are operating in Lithuania.
Information technology production is growing in the country, reaching 1.9 billion euros in 2016. In 2017 only, 35 FinTech companies came to Lithuania – a result of Lithuanian government and Bank of Lithuania simplified procedures for obtaining licences for the activities of e-money and payment institutions. Europe’s first international Blockchain Centre launched in Vilnius in 2018.


Education


The Constitution of Lithuania mandates ten-year education ending at age 16 and guarantees a free public higher education for students deemed ‘good’. The Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania proposes national educational policies and goals that are then voted for in the Seimas. Laws govern long-term educational strategy along with general laws on standards for higher education, vocational training, law and science, adult education, and special education. 5.4% of GDP or 15.4% of total public expenditure was spent for education in 2016.
According to the World Bank, the literacy rate among Lithuanians aged 15 years and older is 100%. School attendance rates are above EU average and school leave is less common than in the EU. According to Eurostat Lithuania leads among other countries of EU by people with secondary education (93.3%). Based on OECD data, Lithuania is among the top 4 countries in the world by postsecondary (tertiary) education attainment. As of 2016, 54.9% of the population aged 25 to 34, and 30.7% of the population aged 55 to 64 had completed tertiary education. The share of tertiary-educated 25–64 year-olds in STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields in Lithuania were above the OECD average (29% and 26% respectively), similarly to business, administration and law (25% and 23% respectively).


Modern Lithuanian education system has multiple structural problems. Insufficient funding, quality issues, and decreasing student population are the most prevalent. Lithuanian teacher salaries are lowest in entire EU. Low teacher salaries was the primary reason behind national teacher strikes in 2014, and 2016. Salaries in the higher education sector are also low. Many Lithuanian professors have a second job to supplement their income. PISA report from 2010 found that Lithuanian results in math, science and reading were below OECD average. PISA report from 2015 reconfirmed these findings. The population ages 6 to 19 has decreased by 36% between 2005 and 2015. As a result, the student-teacher ratio is decreasing and expenditure per student is increasing, but schools, particularly in rural areas, are forced into reorganizations and consolidations. As with other Baltic nations, in particular Latvia, the large volume of higher education graduates within the country, coupled with the high rate of spoken second languages is contributing to an education brain drain.
As of 2008, there were 15 public and 6 private universities as well as 16 public and 11 private colleges in Lithuania (see: List of universities in Lithuania). Vilnius University is one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe and the largest university in Lithuania. Kaunas University of Technology is the largest technical university in the Baltic States and the 2nd largest university in Lithuania. In an attempt to reduce costs and adapt to sharply decreasing number of high-school students, Lithuanian parliament decided to reduce the number of universities in Lithuania. In early 2018, Lithuanian Sports University was merged into Lithuanian University of Health Sciences and Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences and Aleksandras Stulginskis University were merged into Vytautas Magnus University.


Religion


According to the 2011 census, 77.2% of residents of Lithuania were Catholics. Catholicism has been the main religion since the official Christianisation of Lithuania in 1387. The Catholic Church was prosecuted by the Russian Empire as part of the Russification policies and by the Soviet Union as part of the overall anti-religious campaigns. During the Soviet era, some priests actively led the resistance against the Communist regime, as symbolised by the Hill of Crosses and exemplified by The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania.
4.1% of the population are Eastern Orthodox, mainly among the Russian minority. The community of Old Believers (0.8% of population) dates back to 1660s.
Protestants are 0.8%, of which 0.6% are Lutheran and 0.2% are Reformed. The Reformation did not impact Lithuania to a great extent as seen in East Prussia, Estonia, or Latvia. Before World War II, according to Losch (1932), the Lutherans were 3.3% of the total population. They were mainly Germans and Prussian Lithuanians in the Klaipėda Region (Memel territory). This population fled or was expelled after the war, and today Protestantism is mainly represented by ethnic Lithuanians throughout the northern and western parts of the country, as well as in large urban areas. Newly arriving evangelical churches have established missions in Lithuania since 1990.
The historical communities of Lipka Tatars maintain Islam as their religion. Lithuania was historically home to a significant Jewish community and was an important center of Jewish scholarship and culture from the 18th century until the eve of World War II. Of the approximately 220,000 Jews who lived in Lithuania in June 1941, almost all were killed during the Holocaust. The Lithuanian Jewish community numbered about 4,000 at the end of 2009.
Romuva, the neopagan revival of the ancient religious practices, has gained popularity over the years. Romuva claims to continue living pagan traditions, which survived in folklore and customs. Romuva is a polytheistic pagan faith, which asserts the sanctity of nature and has elements of ancestor worship. According to the 2001 census, there were 1,270 people of Baltic faith in Lithuania. That number jumped to 5,118 in the 2011 census.


Politics, Government


Since Lithuania declared the restoration of its independence on 11 March 1990, it has maintained strong democratic traditions. It held its first independent general elections on 25 October 1992, in which 56.75% of voters supported the new constitution. There were intense debates concerning the constitution, particularly the role of the president. A separate referendum was held on 23 May 1992 to gauge public opinion on the matter, and 41% of voters supported the restoration of the President of Lithuania. Through compromise, a semi-presidential system was agreed on.
The Lithuanian head of state is the president, directly elected for a five-year term and serving a maximum of two terms. The president oversees foreign affairs and national security, and is the commander-in-chief of the military. The president also appoints the prime minister and, on the latter’s nomination, the rest of the cabinet, as well as a number of other top civil servants and the judges for all courts.


Health


Lithuania provides free state-funded healthcare to all citizens and registered long-term residents. Private healthcare is also available in the country. In 2003–2012, the network of hospitals was restructured, as part of wider healthcare service reforms. It started in 2003–2005 with the expansion of ambulatory services and primary care. In 2016, Lithuania ranked 27th in Europe in the Euro health consumer index, a ranking of European healthcare systems based on waiting time, results and other indicators.
As of 2015 Lithuanian life expectancy at birth was 73.4 (67.4 years for males and 78.8 for females) and the infant mortality rate was 6.2 per 1,000 births. The annual population growth rate increased by 0.3% in 2007. At 33.5 people per 100,000 in 2012, Lithuania has seen a dramatic rise in suicides in the post-Soviet years, and now records the highest in Europe (cases in rural areas are five times more frequent than in cities) and fourth highest age-standardized suicide rate in the world, according to WHO. According to experts, this number was largely influenced by the Soviets’ authority because mostly Christian country’s inhabitants previously considered it as a severe sin and were afraid to take their lives.


By 2000 the vast majority of Lithuanian health care institutions were non-profit-making enterprises and a private sector developed, providing mostly outpatient services which are paid for out-of-pocket. The Ministry of Health also runs a few health care facilities and is involved in the running of the two major Lithuanian teaching hospitals. It is responsible for the State Public Health Centre which manages the public health network including ten county public health centres with their local branches. The ten counties run county hospitals and specialised health care facilities.
There is now Compulsory Health Insurance for Lithuanian residents. There are 5 Territorial Health Insurance Funds, covering Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai and Panevėžys. Contributions for people who are economically active are 9% of income.
Emergency medical services are provided free of charge to all residents. Access to hospital treatment is normally by referral by a General Practitioner. Lithuania also has one of the lowest health care prices in Europe.


Cuisine


Lithuanian cuisine features the products suited to the cool and moist northern climate of Lithuania: barley, potatoes, rye, beets, greens, berries, and mushrooms are locally grown, and dairy products are one of its specialties. Fish dishes are very popular in the coastal region. Since it shares its climate and agricultural practices with Northern Europe, Lithuanian cuisine has some similarities to Scandinavian cuisine. Nevertheless, it has its own distinguishing features, which were formed by a variety of influences during the country’s long and difficult history. Dairy products traditionally is an important part of Lithuanian cuisine – white cottage cheese (varškės sūris), curd (varškė), soured milk (rūgpienis), sour cream (grietinė), butter (sviestas), kastinis – sour cream butter. Traditional meat products are usually seasoned, matured and smoked – smoked sausages (dešros), lard (lašiniai), skilandis, smoked ham (kumpis). Soups (sriubos) – boletus soup, cabbage soup, beer soup, milk soup and various kinds of porages (košės) are part of tradition and daily diet. Freshwater fish, herring, wild berries and mushrooms, honey are highly popular diet to this day.
One of the oldest and most fundamental Lithuanian food products was and is rye bread. Rye bread is eaten every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bread played an important role in family rituals and agrarian ceremonies.


Lithuanians and other nations which lived in Grand Duchy of Lithuania share many dishes and beverages. German traditions also influenced Lithuanian cuisine, introducing pork and potato dishes, such as potato pudding (kugelis or kugel) and potato sausages (vėdarai), as well as the baroque tree cake known as Šakotis. The most exotic of all the influences is Eastern (Karaite) cuisine – the kibinai are popular in Lithuania. Lithuanian noblemen usually hired French chefs – French cuisine influence came to Lithuania in this way.
Balts were using mead (midus) for thousands of years. Beer (alus) is the most common alcoholic beverage. Lithuania has a long farmhouse beer tradition, first mentioned in 11th century chronicles. Beer was brewed for ancient Baltic festivities and rituals. Farmhouse brewing survived to a greater extent in Lithuania than anywhere else, and through accidents of history the Lithuanians then developed a commercial brewing culture from their unique farmhouse traditions. Lithuania is top 5 by consumption of beer per capita in Europe in 2015, counting 75 active breweries, 32 of them are microbreweries. The microbrewery scene in Lithuania has been growing in later years, with a number of bars focusing on these beers popping up in Vilnius and also in other parts of the country.

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