Lithuania DescriptionDuring the last Ice Age this land now called Lithuania was covered by a thick layer of ice, and when that ice sheet retreated (or melted) about 10,000 years ago the exposed lands turned green.
Soon wildlife returned, and Stone Age hunter-gatherers reached this fertile slice of Europe. In time, settlements developed and Baltic tribes lived and farmed throughout the area on through the Bronze and Iron Ages.
The Christian Crusades (1095-1291) ordered by the pope in Rome, was a wide series of military campaigns fought across Europe. In Lithuania, as well as in other countries, the goal was (by force) to restore Christian control in pagan areas.
The struggle in this Baltic land lasted for nearly a century; its territory expanded rapidly, and by the end of the 14th century Lithuania was the largest country in Europe as it included present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and significant parts of Poland.
In 1385, Lithuania's Grand Duke accepted Poland's offer to become its king. He consequently converted Lithuania to Christianity and established a personal union between the two lands.
That association (with some disputes between kings and dukes aside) lasted into the 16th century, and in 1569, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was created.
The Northern War (1655-1660) began as a Swedish attack on Poland-Lithuania. The Lithuanian territory and economy were devastated by the Swedish army and years before it could fully recover, Lithuania was once again ravaged during the Great Northern War (1700–1721).
That war was predicated on Russia contesting Swedish dominance in the Baltic countries. The war ended with a defeat for Sweden, leaving Russia as the new major power in the Baltic Sea and in control of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
With Russia in control repressive reforms were put into place, including eliminating the freedom of the press. In the mid-19th century Lithuania and Belarus officially became part of a new administrative region of Russia called Northwestern Krai.
Then, in 1917, in a stroke of luck, the Bolsheviks overthrew the Russian Provisional Government during the Russian Revolution and the powers that be in Lithuania (seeing an opening) issued a Declaration of Independence on February 16, 1918.
Lithuania's newly found independence was tenuous at best as territorial disputes and a military coup d'etat resulted in the replacement of the democratically elected government with a conservative authoritarian government controlled by one leader.
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A Vilnius shopping district, Lithuania