The name of Lithuania first appeared
in written sources in 1009 AD. The modern Lithuanian
state was established in 1918 and regained it’s
independence in 1990 after 50 years of foreign rule.
Lithuania consists of ten counties
and five cultural regions, of which Zemaitija (the
Lowland) and Aukstaitija (the Highland) are the biggest
and best known. Lithuania borders Poland, Latvia,
Belarus and the Kaliningrad district of the Russian
Federation. It boasts 99 km of sand-laid seashore
and has its tiny Sahara – the dune hills on
the Curonian peninsula in the Baltic sea. Dozens of
fine lakes, rivers and virgin forests form five national
parks and other recreation areas.
25 km north of Vilnius the cartographers
set the geographic centre of Europe.
About 56 percent of inhabitants live
in three biggest cities – Vilnius, Kaunas and
port Klaipeda. Vilnius was established as the capital
of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in mid XIV century.
Its Renaissance and Baroque old town houses Lithuania’s
oldest university established by the Jesuits in 1579.
Lithuania has a modern highway system,
several international airports and a major ice-free
seaport of Klaipeda. The country is relatively poor
of natural resources; however, according to human
social development index, the United Nations rates
it 52nd among 174 world nations. The major
branches of Lithuania’s rapidly modernising
economy are services, industry and agriculture. The
countries of the European Union are Lithuania’s
major trade partners and investors.