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Lithuania lies in the western part of the East European Plain. Its area is 65,200 square kilometers. By the size of its area it takes the 110-th place among the countries of the world. In the north it borders on Latvia (610 km), in the east on Byelorussia 724 km), in the south on Poland (110 km), in the west on the region of Kaliningrad (former Karaliaucius, Konigsberg), which belongs to the Russian Federation (303 km), and the Baltic Sea (99 km).

Lithuania lies at the very heart of Europe, for the central point of this continent is located 20 km from Vilnius in the direction of the township of Maisiagala, on the shores of Lake Pikeliskes.

According to the 1991 census the population of Lithuania is 3,755,00, or 57.5 inhabitants to every square kilometer. 69 per cent of them live in cities and towns, 31 per cent in rural areas. 79.9 per cent of the population is Lithuania (2,985,000), the remaining part consists of different nationalities - Russians, Poles, Byelorussians, Ukrainians, Jews and others. The population of rural areas is mostly Lithuanian, but in the south eastern parts of Lithuania it is mostly Polish. By the size of its population Lithuania takes the 102-nd place among the countries of the world. Life expectancy is 72 years, which gives Lithuania the 37-th place among the world nations. The rate of illiteracy is 1.2% (the 24-th place).

At present there are 44 administrative districts in Lithuania, 92 cities and towns (11 cities being subordinated directly to the Republic's government) and 22 settlements. Lithuania's capital is Vilnius (its population is 598 000), second largest city is Kaunas (433 000 inhabitants), then follow Klaipeda (208 000 inhabitants), Siauliai (149 000 inhabitants), Panevezys (131 000).

There are 4 000 000 Lithuanians in the world, 14 400 of them live in various republics of the Soviet Union, about 1,000,000 Lithuanians reside abroad, 80 per cent of whom in the USA. There are Lithuanian communities in 19 countries. The Lithuanian communities in Byelorussia and Poland live on the territories inhabited by ethnic Lithuanians from the earliest times.

Lithuania was; the last European country to accept Christianity: in its eastern parts (Aukstaitija) this happened in 1387, in the western parts (Zemaitija) in 1513. At present the majority of Lithuanians are Catholics. There are 660 Roman Catholic parishes in Lithuania, and 142 Catholic Lithuanian communities abroad. In addition, there are 38 Lutheran communities (7 communities of Lithuanian Lutherans abroad) and 7 Calvinist communities (2 communities abroad). In emigration Lithuanian religious communities have done a lot to keep up the national and cultural traditions of their members.

Lithuania is in the zone of temperate climate. Its average annual temperature is about 6 degrees Centigrade. In January it is 4,8 degrees be- low zero, in July it is 17.2 degrees above zero. Lithuania receives from 540 millimeters (in the Central Lowland) to 930 millimeters (in the Zemaitian Highlands) of rainfall a year. The greatest amount of rain falls in August, on the coastline it happens in October. The period of vegetation is from 169 to 202 days.

There are about 4000 small and large lakes in Lithuania occupying about 1.5 per cent of the whole area. They are located mostly in the Aukstaitian Highlands. Lake Druksiai is the largest lake in Lithuania, it stretches for 44.5 square kilometers. The deepest lake is the Tauragnas (its depth is 60.52 meters), the longest is Asveja Lake (21.9 kilometers).

There are 21 rivers which are more than 100 kilometers long, and 722 streams, the length of which exceeds 10 kilometers. The majority of them flow across the western part of the Central and Zemaitian Highlands. The total length of Lithuanian waterways is 628 kilometers. The Lithuanian in- land waters are inhabited by 57 kinds of fish.

35,3 per cent of the Lithuanian territory is arable land. The best lands are in the Central parts of the country, the worst are in Eastern Lithuania. Lithuania has deposits of peat, gypsum, limestone, chalk, clay and sand.

Lithuania's forests are mostly of mixed deciduous and coniferous type. They occupy 28.4 per cent of the whole territory. The predominating trees are pines, birches and firs; alders, asps, oaks, and ash-trees are less frequent.

The fauna of Lithuania is, in general, similar to that of north-western Europe and taiga. There are 426 species of vertebrates which include 61 species of mammals, 7 species of reptiles, 11 species of amphibians. The wooded areas are inhabited by wolves, boars, elks, hares and other wild animals.

293 species of birds have been registered in Lithuania, 200 species breed and 50 species live here all the year round, about 50 species pass through the country. The most frequent birds include ducks, pigeons, storks, woodpeckers, swallows, jackdaws, thrushes, magpies, srows, larks, hawks, sparrows and some others.

The main agricultural crops include cereals (rye, winter wheat, barley, oats), legumes, potatoes, vegetables, fodder crops, sugar beets, flax. Lithuanian farmers rear cattle, pigs, sheep and poultry. Orchards produce a variety of fruits - apples, pears, plums - and berries - currents, gooseberries. Every family of collective farmers is given a land allotment of 0.6 hectares which they farm for personal needs. Every city and town is encircled with a vast ring of collective orchards (the area of each orchard being 0.06 hectare) where town dwellers grow fruit trees, berries, vegetables and flowers. 1989 saw the coming back of the first private farms.

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Copyright ©, 1996 Lithuanian Folk Culture Centre.