Culture Name



Identification. Lithuanians are fond of nature and have a strong feeling of a shared culture that begins as early as primary school, where folk music, national traditions, and holidays play an important role. Among those who remember life under the Soviet regime, pride in surviving a period of repression and difficulty is a focal point of the national culture.

The most noticeable distinction between regions is the change in dialects as one travels across the country. To an outsider, a different dialect can sound like a completely different language and in some cases—particularly in border towns—may incorporate elements of the neighboring country's language.

Location and Geography. Lithuania is on the coast of the Baltic Sea. Just over 40,500 square miles (65,000 square kilometers) in area, it shares borders with Poland and Kaliningrad (Russian Federation) in the southwest, Belarus in the east, and Latvia in the north. The country is divided into four regions: Aukštaitija, the highlands in the northeast and central portion of the country; Žemaitija, the lowlands in the west, stretching from the Baltic coast to the Nevėžis river; Dzūkija, in the southeast; and Suvalkija, in the southwest. The climate is maritime along the coast and continental in other areas. The physical environment varies from sandy terrain spotted with pine trees on the coast and the Curonian Spit, to flatlands and low, rolling hills farther inland. There are more than eight thousand lakes, mostly in the uplands.

The capital, Vilnius, lies in the southwestern part of the country at the confluence of the Neris and Vilnia rivers. Vilnius has been the capital since the fourteenth century, except for the period from 1919 to 1939 during Poland's annexation of southern Lithuania, when it was temporarily moved to Kaunas.

Demography. In 2000, the population was 3.8 million, of which approximately 80 percent were ethnic Lithuanians, 9 percent Russians, 7 percent Poles, 2 percent Belarussians, and 2 percent were of other nationalities. Lithuania is 70 percent urban, with the largest cities being Vilnius (population 600,000), Kaunas (population 430,000), Klaipėda (population 210,000), Šiauliai (population 150,000), and Panevėžys (population 130,000).

Linguistic Affiliation. The official language is Lithuanian, one of two remaining languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European languages. Dialects vary by region, and their distinctiveness often depends on the distance from the nearest big city or the proximity to borders, where incorporation of neighboring countries' words is common. The language has survived despite a history of domination by foreign powers and serves as a focal point of cultural identity.

Lithuanian is spoken by nearly everyone in the country except for a few Russians and Poles in Vilnius and in the extreme east and south. It is a language with many words to describe a single idea. There is an abundance of nature words, probably because the people are so fond of the outdoors. This is particularly evident in traditional personal names such as Rūta ("Rue"), Aušra ("Dawn"), and Giedrius ("Dew"). Lithuanian often makes use of diminutives to soften the connotation of words or make them more personal.

Symbolism. The national symbol is Vytis, the white knight, sitting astride his horse and brandishing a sword; he symbolizes the nation's struggle to defend itself from intruders. The national plant is rue, and the national bird is the stork. The flag consists of horizontal stripes in yellow, green, and red; the colors symbolize nature (sun and trees)

and traditional values such as solidarity and national pride.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The origin of the nation and the development of its culture were strongly influenced by foreign occupation of the country and are the result of the perceived need of the people to preserve something of their own. Even when the national language was banned and reading or writing of books in the native tongue was forbidden, people were determined to spread their heritage and share their traditions.

The first Lithuanian state was established in 1230 after Duke Mindaugas united the tribes and lands in the area. His crowning in 1252 marked the beginning of a cultural identity focused on solidarity. Further credit for the early development of this character goes to Gediminas, the principal unifier of the territory from the Baltic to the Black Sea. He was one of the first leaders to instill in the people the spirit of nationhood, and the main street of Vilnius, with the parliament building at one end and the national cathedral at the other, bears his name. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the marriage of Jogaila, the grand duke of Lithuania, to Queen Jadvyga of Poland created the formal confederation Rzeczpospolita; extensive development of the Lithuanian cultural identity took place during that period. While at several points in history this camaraderie could not overcome the presence of occupiers (in 1569 an attempt to defend against an expanding Russian state failed, and attempts at independence in 1795, 1830–1831, and 1863 were also unsuccessful), the resolute nature of the national character was not undermined.

National Identity. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, literacy became a valuable tool in the development of cultural and national identity. Although it was illegal, people continued to read the literature of the national movement. Literacy rates were considerably higher than those in Russia and contributed greatly to the rise of a national identity.

In 1905, when over two thousand delegates representing different sectors of the society gathered at the Great Lithuanian Assembly to discuss the Lithuanian nation, representatives of different political backgrounds agreed that the country should fight for and be granted autonomy, whether within Czarist Russia or independent of it. The intelligentsia, with help from the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, drafted a document making demands for the future of the Lithuanian state. Among those demands were autonomy, equal rights for aliens within Russia, the construction of Lithuanian schools, freedom of worship, and the return of Suvalkija, which was controlled by the Poles.

In 1918, Lithuania formally declared independence, which was granted by both Germany and the Soviet Union. While lasting independence would not come until nearly a century later (the Soviet Union occupied the nation in 1940, and the Nazis in 1941), the fact that schools resumed teaching in Lithuanian, folk dance groups began meeting more freely, and people around the country assembled more readily to discuss their views was significant.

The period from 1941 to 1944 saw the countryside destroyed and almost all of the Jewish population (up to 250,000) annihilated. The period under Stalin, from 1945 to 1953, made the people more determined to put an end to the repression their country had experienced for so long. Tens of thousands of people, including most intellectuals, were deported to Siberia for being educated or being involved in intellectual circles, and many others fled. Those who remained were determined to change the system. Groups of "forest fighters" fled to the woods to avoid deportation and maintain nationalist resistance. It is said that some of these fighters remained in the forests until 1960, seven years after Stalin's reign ended.

At the beginning of 1989, the popular movement Sajūdis announced a platform for the complete restoration of Lithuanian sovereignty. This led to closer monitoring by the Soviet Union and increased Soviet troop movements in Lithuania in an effort to maintain order. The remainder of 1989 and most of 1990 were marked by deliberations both between the Soviet government and the Lithuanian popular movement and among different parties within those constituencies. In March 1990, Lithuania declared full reestablishment of independence from the Soviet Union, based on the argument that the occupation and annexation of the country by the Soviet Union was a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 and its secret protocols and thus were illegal. In response, the Soviet Union imposed an economic blockade.

In late 1990 a popularist rally to help Lithuanians evade the Red Army draft was organized, and the Soviet government decided to deal with "the Lithuanian problem" once and for all. The Lithuanian Communist Party secretary had claimed that the human rights of non-Lithuanian citizens in the country were being violated and encouraged Soviet intervention. In January 1991, KGB plants posing as Russian workers stormed the parliament. A few days later, in what were described as precautionary measures to protect the human rights of Soviet citizens, Soviet troops gathered around the Parliament, the Lithuanian Press House, and the Vilnius television tower. Soldiers abused bystanders with little or no provocation, and several people were wounded.

The culmination of the Soviet campaign occurred on 13 January at the base of the Vilnius television tower, where thousands of nonviolent protestors had gathered. Irritated by Lithuanian persistence, Soviet forces attacked the crowd. Tanks crushed those who got in the way, and soldiers fired into the crowd. Thirteen people died at the television tower.

Two weeks after the episode, Mikhail Gorbachev appointed a delegation to negotiate with Baltic leaders. Although troop movements continued for much of the year, especially in Vilnius and along the border with Kaliningrad, it was obvious that the Soviet presence was finished. In September 1991, the Soviet Union recognized Lithuania as an independent republic. Later that month, Lithuania became a member of the United Nations—three months before the demise of the Soviet Union. In 1993, the first directly elected president, Algirdas

Vehicles dot a highway in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius in 1975.
Vehicles dot a highway in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius in 1975.
Brazauskas, was chosen; the last Russian soldiers left the country; and Lithuania became a member of the Council of Europe.

Ethnic Relations. Historically, relations with other ethnic groups have been amicable; this is perhaps because over 80 percent of citizens are ethnic Lithuanians. While relations with minority groups, especially Russians, were strained during the period immediately preceding the reestablishment of independence, ethnic strife is not a matter of grave concern.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Styles of architecture reflect the sociopolitical and religious past of the country. While most people in urban areas live in Soviet-era blocks of concrete apartment buildings, the countryside is dotted with traditional wooden churches and houses. Also present are fortlike structures and castles built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as residences for the local nobility. The Old Town of Vilnius has been restored and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Monument.

Present-day government buildings are often old brick edifices left over from the Soviet period. The propagandistic statues in many of the main squares were removed in the early 1990s and have been replaced with more nationalistic monuments.

Among the 70 percent of people who reside in urban areas, many live in small two- or three-room apartments with sitting rooms that double as bedrooms. Kitchens are generally small, and toilets are often separate from washrooms. Most of these apartments were distributed during the Soviet period, and many are owned or rented by the original recipients.

Among those who live in towns, it is common to have a garden just outside the city limits, often as part of a collective. In the summer, families tend these gardens and grow produce to be canned and consumed in the winter. Many families live in garden houses for extended periods during the summer to escape cramped accommodations at home.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The typical diet consists of items that are readily available and not expensive. National dishes reflect the economic situation and the fact that the weather is cold for much of the year, creating a shortage of vegetables in the winter and a desire to prepare and eat warm, wholesome food. Pork, smoked meats, cabbage, beets, and potatoes

The Vilnius City Square. Lithuanian architecture reflects the sociopolitical and religious past of the country.
The Vilnius City Square. Lithuanian architecture reflects the sociopolitical and religious past of the country.
are staples. Two favorite traditional dishes are šaltibarščiai , cold beet soup with buttermilk, and cepelinai , boiled potato dumplings filled with meat or curd and served with fried pork fat or sour cream. Eating in restaurants has become more popular, and there are many different types of restaurants in the larger cities; how frequently a family dines out is determined by its income.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Food plays an important role in celebrations, and a long table full of tasty fare is considered a sign of hospitality and affluence. It is customary for all guests to sit at a common table that fills most of the room, and for the hosts to ensure that no guest leaves the table hungry. These meals start with salads, cold meats, and bread, accompanied by kompotas (cold fruit tea) or juice, vodka, wine, or gira , a carbonated soft drink made from grain. This is followed by a hot course, singing and conversation, and perhaps dessert and coffee.

The Christmas Eve meal, kučios , is the most symbolic meal of the year. Twelve meatless dishes are prepared, including several types of herring, grain porridge, and often pickled mushrooms. Hay sometimes is sprinkled under the tablecloth to represent the manger where Jesus was born. People often eat kučiukai (bite-sized biscuitlike cakes) with poppy milk (poppy seeds boiled with water and sugar) for dessert. They also break symbolic Christmas wafers ( Dievo pyragai ) which were once acquired in churches but are now available in local shops at Christmas, to bring the family closer together and wish for a healthy and successful year. If a family member has died in the past year, a plate and chair are placed at the table, along with a small candle, to welcome the spirit to participate in one last family gathering.

Basic Economy. The economy is mainly agricultural, but in recent years the government has attempted to distribute commercial activity. Light industry, metalworking, and woodworking, along with petroleum refining, are part of the commercial profile. Livestock breeding, primarily pigs, and dairy farming are an important sector of the economy, and cereals, flax, beets, and potatoes are the primary crops. Lithuania's unit of currency is the litas , pegged at four litas per U.S. dollar.

Lithuania is dependent on other nations for fuel and raw materials. The main economic problems are job insecurity, high unemployment, and poor labor protection laws.

Land Tenure and Property. Reestablishment of independence in 1991 led to the abandonment of the strict Soviet system of property and land allocation, and a need for new laws on restoration of ownership rights. There is has been a movement to accelerate the restoration process, clarify the property registration system and the role of government ministries therein, and develop a national strategy on property security and management.

Commercial Activities. Commercial activity is determined largely by geography. On the coast, where tourism and fishing are prevalent, fish products and the shipping of equipment are the major commercial endeavors. In the south, where the soil is fertile and mineral springs are predominant, wild mushrooms and farm products are the major products. The east is known for wooden handicrafts and metalworking, and the north for wheat, flax, and beets.

Major Industries. Metalworking, manufacturing, woodworking, and light industry are widespread in the east; water power, metalworking, manufacturing, food processing, farming, and livestock rearing are predominate in the south; and shipbuilding, fish processing, and tourism in the West. The north does not have any major industries.

Trade. In the past, Lithuania traded mainly with Russia, exporting foodstuffs, especially dairy products, and textiles. It also exported machinery and light industrial products to other countries of the former Soviet Union. Since 1991, exports have shifted more to the west, and close to 50 percent of exports are to the European Union. Major imports are fuel and raw materials, primarily from the European Union and Russia.

Division of Labor. The division of labor is by law determined by ability, certification, education, and training, but age, gender, and social connections continue to play a role in career advancement. The coming of independence ended the institutional guarantee of a job.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. There is not a highly defined caste system in Lithuania. Society is primarily middle class, and there is a large income gap between the wealthy and the very poor. Low salaries, high unemployment rates, and a poor social security system make it difficult for pensioners to meet their basic needs.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Owning a private home or new car is a symbol of wealth, but there is not a traditional system of social stratification in Lithuania.

Political Life

Government. Lithuania is a parliamentary democracy, with a constitution that was adopted in 1992. The Parliament, or Seimas, is unicameral with 141 seats and is the highest legislative body. Seventy-one members are elected directly by popular vote, and seventy by proportional representation from single seat districts, to four-year terms.

The head of state is the president, who is elected to a five-year term by universal, equal, direct suffrage. The president is responsible for approving and publishing laws adopted by the Seimas and appoints and dismisses the prime minister with approval of the Seimas. Ministers are appointed by the president upon recommendation by the prime minister.

The government is actively involved with international organizations, including the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, and its continual membership in both the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Leadership and Political Officials. The political system includes a central government, and forty-four regions with eleven municipalities. Public opinion toward political officials and their effectiveness and trustworthiness is mixed, and corruption is a problem in some governmental bodies.

The major political parties are the conservative Homeland Union Party, the Christian Democrat Party, the New Union Party, the Center Party, the Social Democrat Party, the Liberal Party, the Democratic Labor Party, and the Lithuanian Women's Party. All major parties promote integration into the European Union and NATO. The constitution provides "guarantees for the activities of political parties and political organizations" and mandates that state personnel, judges, prosecutors, and investigators may not be active members of political parties.

Social Problems and Control. The judicial branch of the government includes the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court, plus district and local courts whose judges are all appointed directly or indirectly by the Seimas. The most common crimes are theft, domestic and public violence, and corruption.

Public opinion of social control often reflects dissatisfaction with the system. Bribery, which has been present since the Soviet era and may stem from the low salaries of public servants, is widespread among police officers. Some people argue that "taking of the law into one's own hands" is a

A Lithuanian railroad worker takes a break. Commercial activity in Lithuania is largely determined by geographical region.
A Lithuanian railroad worker takes a break. Commercial activity in Lithuania is largely determined by geographical region.
natural response to and means of closing the gap between public sector salary levels and the value of the public sector's contribution to the national economy.

Military Activity. The military is composed of ground forces, air and air defense forces, a navy, security forces (internal forces and border guards), and a national guard. All male citizens over the age of eighteen are required to complete one year of mandatory military service unless exempted for academic or professional reasons. Alternative service is available.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

There are social welfare and change programs at all levels of society, including several national youth clubs and peer support groups, as well as societies for recovering alcoholics and members of marginalized groups. Local and national environmental and conservation groups have begun participating in international projects to reduce pollution in the Baltic Sea and the region as a whole.

The involvement of governmental and nongovernmental organizations is a key factor in the success of these programs. While many social programs are in the beginning stages because only scientific organizations could legitimately address "controversial" issues in the Soviet era, increased interest in schools and by the international donor community has contributed to social progress.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

There are several thousands of organizations and associations, which by law are divided into four distinct types: societal organizations, associations, charity and sponsorship funds, and public institutions. Regulations regarding the establishment of and guidelines for various organizations are confusing.

The Vilnius NGO Information and Support Centre serves as a central clearinghouse for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), provides links to other organizations around the world, and attempts to establish dialog between the two groups. Also, 1998 amendments to NGO laws, which resulted from cooperation among NGOs, the government, the United Nations Development Programme, the Information Centre for Not-for-Profit Law, and the NGO Information and Support Centre, have brought in outside help for this sector. Current policies endorse tax breaks for NGOs, further clarification of NGO laws, and the redefinition of charity versus sponsorship, along with greater flexibility in administrative matters.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Gender discrimination in employment is illegal, and control mechanisms and ombudsman institutions ensure that the law is observed. Nevertheless, while the workforce has seen an increase in female participation, division of labor by gender still exists. Jobs traditionally done by women are often lower-paid positions such as teaching and public service jobs. The majority of doctors are women because of the low salaries for public servants; the health, social service, and education sector also are characterized by high concentrations of female employees. Although women now constitute 50 percent of the labor force and close to 90 percent of working-age women work or study, this female presence is not reflected in pay rates. As the private sector becomes more prominent, the workforce is shrinking, and women are being squeezed out regardless of their educational level.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Obvious discrepancies exist with regard to pay rates, and increased unemployment and decreased real wages affect women in particular.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriages typically have two components: religious and legal. Couples must register at the municipal wedding hall and often have a religious union in a church, followed by an elaborate party that can last for three days. While on the average people marry younger than do their Western counterparts, this has changed with the increasing popularity among women of higher education. There has been a sharp decrease in the number of marriages since the Soviet period. The ending of a woman's surname changes to reflect her marital status, and people may look skeptically upon older women who have never married.

Domestic Unit. The primary domestic unit is the nuclear family based on a marital relationship. Households are often run by women, who have traditionally been the cooks and cleaners. This has changed because more women are discovering that if they stay home, they miss out on opportunities to make money and can lose their competitive status in the job market.

Families usually have close ties with parents and immediate relatives, and much of everyday life focuses on this relationship. Lithuanians often use the term "acquaintance" and grant the title of "friend" only to someone who is very close and like a member of the family.

Kin Groups. Membership in groups helps some people improve their standard of living. Strong social networks and extended relationships with family and friends are an important part of life. Often family members are assisted by relatives who live abroad and send money, clothing, and other goods.


Infant Care. Infants usually are cared for by their mothers or grandmothers. Children go to nursery school or kindergarten as early as three years old and stay until they start elementary school. Younger children with working parents often stay at nursery school or kindergarten until the early evening.

Child Rearing and Education. Child rearing is traditionally the responsibility of the mother. Although the law allows fathers to take paternal leave and receive paternal pay, it is not common for men to do this. Children are required to complete nine years of formal schooling, but most finish twelve grades. The number of specialized schools has increased as higher education has become more popular. Many children also attend music, art, or athletics schools.

Higher Education. There are fifteen institutions of higher education: six universities, seven academies, and two institutes. Most higher education is free or very inexpensive, as the state subsidizes 75 percent of university education. A university education is becoming increasingly important for getting a good job.

Studying abroad has become very popular, although complications with visas and high foreign tuition present problems for many students. Foreign donor programs make it possible for many students to overcome these financial difficulties.

The largest universities are Vilnius University, Vytautas Didysis University, Kaunas Technological University, Klaipėda University, Klaipėda Christian College, and Šiauliai University. Vilnius University, established in 1579, is the oldest university in Central Europe and the most prestigious in the country. The majority of university students are women, primarily majoring in education. Male students are more likely to study business or computers.


Lithuanians are a reserved people with respect for tradition. They generally will not go out of their way to greet someone they do not know; people on public conveyances do not look directly at someone else unless they are friends and generally give up their seats to their elders.

People often bring a small gift of candy or flowers when they visit someone (always an odd number of flowers unless someone has passed away). Hosts are generous and do anything they can to make a guest comfortable.

Men always shake the hands of male friends when they meet in a café or on the street but never inside a door. This is one of many superstitions, which include not whistling indoors for fear of calling little devils and not sitting at the corner of a table if one wishes to marry soon.


Religious Beliefs. Lithuania is mainly Roman Catholic (90 percent), with some Lutherans and a few members of other churches. The Jewish population, was almost completely erased between 1941 and 1944.

Religious Practitioners. The Catholic Studies Academy has over eight hundred members in Lithuania, and there are several seminaries and monasteries. Klaipėda University has a Lutheran Evangelical Theology Center that hosts about thirty monks. The Lithuanian Lutheran Youth Center and various Bible studies organizations serve religious practitioners and their patrons.

Rituals and Holy Places. One of the most significant holy places is the Hill of Crosses just north of Šiauliai on the road to Rīga, Latvia. The hill has hundreds of thousands of crosses brought by believers from throughout the country and around the world. Although the Soviets bulldozed the hill several times for its open violation of their anti-religious policy, the crosses always reappeared.

Medicine and Health Care

The health care system, many of whose elements are left over from the Soviet regime, is a system of state hospitals, clinics, and smaller doctors' offices, with a growing number of private practitioners. People who go to public health clinics often face long lines and complain about the high prices of prescription drugs, but visits to the doctor are free.

Economic conditions have a significant influence on health; some families cannot afford to buy healthy foods or pay for prescription medicines. Doctors often are not paid on time because of lack of funds or cutbacks. While there are many doctors, they often face the problem of scarce resources. As a result, it is customary for patients to take a "gift" to the doctor to thank him for his services and ensure that he makes an effort to get the patient what he or she needs.

Many people prefer to use traditional home remedies that have been passed down for generations. Hot tea with honey or lemon, vodka, chamomile, and mustard plasters on the back are considered a sure cure for the common cold or the flu and cost far less than products available in pharmacies.

A group of Lithuanians demonstrate for independence from the Soviet Union in 1989.
A group of Lithuanians demonstrate for independence from the Soviet Union in 1989.
Doctors make house calls, especially for older people and those living on the countryside.

Secular Celebrations

The Day of Remembrance of the Television Tower incident is celebrated on 13 January. Shrove Tuesday ( Užgavėnės ), the second Tuesday in February, is a Catholic feast day forty days before Easter, that has become popular with the nonreligious and is the Lithuanian equivalent of trick or treating. Children wear masks and go door to door singing a song that asks for pancakes and coffee. More elaborate celebrations involve the burning of an effigy of winter to welcome the spring. Independence Day is celebrated on 16 February. Saint Kazimier's Day on 4 March, originally was a religious holiday but now provides a reason to hold annual fairs at which vendors sell handicrafts. Every five years a national folk music festival takes place in honor of Saint Kazimier's Day. Reestablishment of Independence Day is celebrated on 11 March. Midsummer's Eve (Saint John's Day) on 24 June, celebrates the arrival of summer. The tradition includes running into the forest at night to search for fern blossoms. Legend holds that Midsummer's Eve is a night for young people to find a mate, and finding a fern blossom is a sign of great luck. Women and girls make wreaths of flowers to be worn on their heads or floated down the river with candles. Celebrants dance around a campfire and jump over it to bid farewell to the cold season. Crowning of Mindaugas Day occurs on 6 July. The Day of Remembrance of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is celebrated on 23 August.

Death and the Afterlife. Funeral practices in Lithuania take place in three phases. First, the deceased is formally dressed and laid out for a three-day, three-night viewing either at home or in a public venue. Family and friends keep watch and ensure that candles stay lit as people come to bring flowers—always in even numbers—and pay their respects. This is followed by a burial ceremony at a cemetery (cremation is not common), and a sitdown luncheon for all funeral attendants. The luncheon is a time for friends and family to share their memories of the deceased. It is common to visit the graves of loved ones at birthdays and on 1 November (All Souls' Day), when most cemeteries overflow with flowers and burning candles.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Many artists are self-supporting, but limited funding is available from the government. Some apply for foreign grant money,

A group of Lithuanian folk dancers and musicians perform in a Vilnius public square.
A group of Lithuanian folk dancers and musicians perform in a Vilnius public square.
and many spend time in foreign countries studying or practicing their trade. There are strict laws on exporting cultural properties, and anyone who wishes to purchase or move cultural properties more than fifty years old must follow a detailed registration procedure.

Literature. Chronicles of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania , a historical treatise, marks the beginning of the national literature. Works in the Middle Ages were primarily religious, the first in Lithuanian being Katekizmas (the catechism). From the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, literature increased in popularity; Konstantinas Sirvydas printed the first Lithuanian language dictionary, and the Bible was translated into Lithuanian during that period.

Secular literature became more widespread in the eighteenth century. Kristijonas Donelaitis, considered the founder of Lithuanian literature, wrote Met&NA; Laikai (Seasons). at that time.

Literature in the early twentieth century was linked to the national independence movement. Writings were characterized by symbolism, romanticism, and existentialism. The Soviet occupation undermined the creativity of writers, many of whom fled to the West and wrote in secret. After World War II, there emerged a collection of literature describing experiences during the war. The most famous is Diev&NA; Miskas (Forest of the Gods) by Balys Sruoga,which describes life in a concentration camp.

Poetry has also served as a means of expressing and sharing cultural heritage and has played a role in preserving the national identity.

Graphic Arts. Graphic and decorative art have been part of the cultural heritage for centuries. The Vilnius School of Art was established at the end of the eighteenth century, but handicrafts and religious art date much further back. Large carved wooden crosses and statues are seen throughout the countryside. They sometimes mark the boundaries of towns but often are set up for decoration or to mark the spot of the death of a loved one. Large collections of wooden statues appear in sculpture parks across the country.

Many towns have art galleries, museums, and handicraft shops to exhibit or sell works. Several international artist unions have Lithuanian branches, and artists often arrange personal shows outside the country.

Performance Arts. There are thirteen professional theaters, a National Opera Theater, several youth theaters, puppet theaters, state orchestras, and hundreds of choral groups. The Vilnius Quartet and the Rinkevičius Orchestra are well known throughout the country, and the Nekrošius Theater has won international acclaim. Folk music and dancing are the most popular performance arts, and there are thousands of folklore groups. Often schools and towns have their own groups that dress in traditional costume, travel, and perform or compete with groups from other locations. Attending theatrical and musical events is a reasonably priced and popular cultural activity.

The State of Physical and Social Sciences

The Lithuanian Academy of Science is a major force in the physical and social sciences and was actively involved in the preservation of the national identity when scientific organizations were the only groups permitted to investigate and criticize existing social policies. It was a principal agent in the fight against opening an additional nuclear reactor at the Ignalina Power Plant in eastern Lithuania. The Academy of Science promotes physical and social science around the country. Twenty-four of the country's twenty-nine scientific institutes were founded by the academy, and scientists trained there work in all scientific fields.

Institutes of higher education play an important role in the development of the physical and social sciences and provide training and instruction for scientists. The Academy of Science and other institutions of higher learning receive funding from the state, but have become increasingly reliant on foreign grants and foundations.


Ashbourne, Alexandra. Lithuania: The Rebirth of a Nation, 1991–1994 , 1999.

Dawson, Jane I. Eco-Nationalism: Anti-Nuclear Activism and National Identity in Russia, Lithuania, and Ukraine , 1996.

Gerner, Kristian, and Stefan Hedlund. The Baltic States and the End of the Soviet Empire , 1993.

Girnius, Kestutis. "The Party and Popular Movements in the Baltic." In Jans Arves Trapans, ed. Toward Independence: The Baltic Popular Movements , 1991.

Hiden, John, and Patricia Salmon. The Baltic Nations and Europe: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Twentieth Century , 1991.

Krickus, Richard J. Showdown: The Lithuanian Rebellion and the Breakup of the Soviet Empire , 1997.

LaFont, Suzanne. Women in Transition: Voices from Lithuania , 1998.

Lithuanian Institute of Philosophy and Sociology. Everday Life in the Baltic States , 1997.

Norgaard, Ole, and Lars Johannsen with Mette Skak and Rene Hauge Sorensen. The Baltic States after Independence , 1996.

Oleszczuk, Thomas A. Political Justice in the USSR: Dissent and Repression in Lithuania, 1969–1987 , 1988.

Suziedelis, Saulius. Historical Dictionary of Lithuania , 1997.

Vardys, V. Stanley, and Judith B. Sedaitis. Lithuania: The Rebel Nation , 1997.

Web Sites

Lithuanian Institute of Mathematics and Informatics. Lithuanian Homepage,

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania "Welcome to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania," , 2000.

United States Department of State. Background Notes: Lithuania ,


Also read article about Lithuania from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Dawn Cunningham Hall
Fantastic article, thank you! Just a note, what you refer to as "Klaipeda Christian College" was actually Lithuania Christian College, and has recently changed its name to "LCC International University." (The "LCC" is just symbolic now, and doesn't stand for anything).

Thanks again,
great article, im acuualy pretty impressed that the author accualy mostly knows what he/she is talking about.. but some things are not true.... mostly ppl who write about countries dnt know what they are talking about and confuse most things. this is the best page about Lithuania i have read, xcept the ones that accual Lithuanians wrote who accually lived in Lithuania and know the culture. also, the author should check the Lithuanian translation spellings since they are kinda all off by a letter or two.
great effort tho
I would like to know if there are any discernable differences between Education in Lithuania and England.
My partner (Lithuanian) is worried that her son (7) will not recieve as good education in England as he would in Lithuania, and I notice the work he does in England seems to be less than what he was doing in Lithuania.

Any information would be appreciated
Jennifer Stucker
I would like to use some of the information published in this article for a report that I am working on. The report is about Lituanian culture. Can you please tell me the author of this article and the date it was written. I would appreciate any information that you can send me.

Thank you.
jennifer stucker
Thanks for the information! I am writting a paper work together with three more friends in an academic institution in Denmark about Tourism in Lithuania. Do you have information or recommended references and sources about this? And can you also send us the name of the person who wrote this site, to use as reference too?
Thanks again,
Kenny The Shark
Thanks for the info! I am usinf this information for my Social sudies project!
Danny Buxztyn
I hope to visit lithuania someday on a visit from USA. I hope I can meet interesting people there, I know there are many nice people. But I want to learn about the culture and hoepfully continue to visit lithuania every holiday that I can travel.
to Danny Buxztyn
you should totally visit Lithuania.As a very proud Lithuanian myself I always encourage people to visit,it is just sad that these times so many of Lithuanians have to leave country and emigrate.Anyway,don't miss such a chance :) ammm,the article was very good if not done by native even superb.Most of information is true.Maybe it is better to write about country from other perspective. p.s. Lithuania was the last pagan country in Lithuania,that is why we are still so connected with nature within language and so on.
Hi, I am doing a project due in two days and I really need to know who the author is and when this was written. Thank you so much, all of this information has been really helpful!
I read this article and found it very useful. However my question was not answered. I would like to know why a lithuanian friend of mine finds it so distressing that I should have a picture that was left to me by a friend that died on the wall in my house. The picture is not of my friend herself but of an animal and was given to me in memory of her. Thank you.
Great article! however I found a mistake in historical part. Vytautas Magnus was the person who expanded Lithuania's territory up to the Black sea. No one else did that again.
Paul Urbannavage
I was trying to find information about my last name, and came across this website. Someone told me it's Lithuanian. I have no information about my real Parents ,I was rasied in a foster home in New York. I understand that the last name is that of my real father Peter Urbannavage , this is on the birth certificate.
Can Someone help me or maybe direct me to a site that can.
showkat hossain miah
Unique country. wish to go there and try to meet traditional people. wish to take traditional and mordan food. watch how can pass there daily life.
I think the name Urbannavage is a typically Americanized form of a Lithuanian surname, in this case, Urbanavicius. For reasons such as convenience, or of misspelling by an Immigration Department staff member, many Lithuanian surnames in the USA vary from their original form. I hope this is helpful.
Salman Arshad
Everything about Lithuania sounds lovely, I am going there in 2 weeks to visit some friends I hope to have an amazing time especially with all the Lithuanian Beer :)
Shafiul gani arifin
I will study in Lithuania during this year & will be more close culture of this country . I like them.
Rose Hoffman
I have found out interesting facts for this country and it will help me with a project i'm doing about this country.
Mark Donald
Which finger do the women wear the engagement ring on.thanks
hello my lithuanian friends have just brought a house - what would be a traditional gift to give to them.
Arianna, i can help you. Mindaugas- king of Lithuania (in ancient times), A wonderful painter, musician M.K Čiurlionis, Film director Šarūnas Bartas, amazing film creator, known Lithuania politic A. Brazauskas, and Lithuania one of the most loved- Valdas Adamkus.
All male citizens over the age of eighteen are NO LONGER required to complete one year of mandatory military service. However you can join as a volunteer.
I have question according to the plants and flowers. What are the most liked plant and flowers over there. And where do they buy such things?
It is a good destiny for tourist.. Places and Culture is amazing,, I would like to visit these place..
No info on my family tree, other than at some point my family is Lithuanian. Is there a website that could help me find out more?
My jewish great-mother was born in Lithuania, is there a policy to repatriate relatives of former jewish citizens?
It's really awesome to visit Lithuania. Places and Culture is amazing,, I would like to visit these place. Lithuania is a Unique country.
Jason Day
I have been given a Lithuanian natural remedy for muscle/joint pain but have run out. I think it's made from vodka with a tree seed or leaf and left to stew into a dark liquid. Does anyone know what the tree seed or leaf is and which tree it comes from.?? Any help great fully accepted. Thank you.
Dear all, I am lithuanian. I love my country and people.
wish to go Lithuania as an international student any detail information would you like to send to me reference to study and living cost and scope for job...
I am trying to find out some information on my last name. It is Shilaikis. My grandfather came to America as a young boy. I was told the spelling might have been changed to make it more American sounding. Curious if anyone is familiar with this last name?
I loved this article. I am part Lithuanian. My Lithuanian relatives were smuggled to the U.S. when the Russians invaded their country. I was told my Lithuanian relatives had farmland and refused to leave it, so the Russians burned them out. I am also part Polish. My Polish relatives also left their country during the war. I was able to track my Great Grandmother arriving to the U.S. via Ellis Island. Lastly, I am part German. I'm not sure of the history, but my German relatives also arrived during the war. My Lithuanian, Polish, and German relatives settled in Detroit. All were fluent in their languages, but all assimilated and learned and spoke English. Considering all my great grandparents arrived to the U.S. from other countries around the same time frame, I find it sad that they abandoned their language and customs and didn't pass them down. I would have loved to learn these, but it is now too late. It's also amazing that I have relatives in all three countries, but I will never know them, nor they me. Hopefully one day I will be able to visit these countries that my relatives were forced to abandon.
Cupcake 123
I think this is great but it does not have everything.
Overall it is a great website
Anita Haskin
I am about to begin an assessment on a family from Lithuania who currently live in the UK, this article has been helpful in beginning my understanding of their culture. Thank you. I would be interested in any other recommendations of reading materials.
Great article but can't find anything to help me, I have many Lithuanian people living near my house and their toileting etiquette is causing great problems. Is alcohol drinking and spitting something that is acceptable in their country? Unfortunately they are very public with this and exposing themselves whilst toileting. I haven't been able to communicate with them successfully despite using translated signs directing to toilets. Are there any cultural beliefs that maybe used as a deterrent?
To Shauna
Shilaikis in Lithuania sounds like Å ilaikis or Å ileikis.
I have been trying to find info about my great grandparents from Lithuania.
They immigrated to USA in the early 1900’s , Name Jouzes Averka, Christina Guaditis
Best way to find information about immigrants to US (prior to middle 1950s) is to contact Elliis Island. Ellis Island was where most immigrants had to come thru. They have ship manifests with names. Plus those manifest list age and nationality. You can search on line. Averka doesn't sound like a Lithuanian name.
Hey I think you got one thing wrong and that is that Lithuania's currency is now euros and owning any BMW even if it is beat up and old it also symbolizes wealth
Ken Fisler
Thanks for the very interesting and informative article. Though you cover much information about Lithuania that I haven't seen elsewhere, could you add yet another section about the media in Lithuania...? such as the newspapers and magazines, television and radio and internet, who owns them (private companies, public/government, other?), and the languages all of these appear in (where relevant).

Thanks again.
Amber Rogers
Looking for the APA format of this article.. thank you

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