Lithuania

Official name: Republic of Lithuania

Area: 65,200 square kilometers (25,174 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Juozapinẹ (292 meters/958 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 2 P.M. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 276 kilometers (172 miles) from north to south; 373 kilometers (233 miles) from east to west

Land boundaries: 1,273 kilometers (791 miles) total boundary length; Belarus 502 kilometers (312 miles); Latvia 453 kilometers (281 miles); Poland 91 kilometers (57 miles); Russia 227 kilometers (141 miles)

Coastline: 99 kilometers (62 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

Lithuania, the largest of the Baltic States, is located in eastern Euroh2, east of the Baltic Sea. It shares land borders with Belarus, Latvia, Poland, and the Kaliningrad Oblast, which belongs to Russia. With a total area of about 65,200 square kilometers (25,174 square miles), the country is slightly larger than the state of West Virginia. Lithuania is administratively divided into forty-four regions and eleven municipalities.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

Lithuania has no outside territories or dependencies.

3 CLIMATE

Although its climate is continental, Lithuania's proximity to the Baltic Sea provides a moderating maritime influence with mild winters and cool summers. In the east, however, conditions may vary from this pattern. The west has a growing season of 202 days, while in the east it lasts 169 days. Overall, the climate is mild. In January, temperatures average 2°C (35° F). In summer, temperatures average 18°C (64°F).

Western Lithuania receives more rain than the rest of the country, with an average annual precipitation of 85 centimeters (33 inches), compared to 49 centimeters (24 inches) in the central plains and 72 centimeters (28 inches) on the east coast.

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

The topography of Lithuania is characterized by alternating regions of highlands and lowlands, but the primary feature is a low-lying central plain. Like that of other nations in the region, continental glaciers formed the Lithuanian landscape during the Pleistocene ice age. No elevation is greater than 305 meters (1,000 feet). Highlands lie to the east and southeast of the central plain, while to the west the land is hilly but becomes low again along the coast. The plains of the southwestern and central regions are noted for their fertile soil.

Lithuania is situated on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

Seacoast and Undersea Features

Lithuania has a western coast along the Baltic Sea, which is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean. The coastline is only about 108 kilometers (67 miles) long.

Sea Inlets and Straits

A long, narrow sandbar forms an offshore lagoon along the southern half of the coastline called Kuršiu Marios (Courland Lagoon).

6 INLAND LAKES

Lithuania has 2,833 lakes that each are larger than one hectare (two acres). In addition, there are 1,600 ponds smaller than one hectare. Most are located in eastern Lithuania. Lake Druksiai, the largest lake, covers about 44.5 square kilometers (17.2 square miles). The deepest lake is Lake Tauragnas, with a depth of about 61 meters (200 feet). The longest lake, Asveja Lake, stretches for 22 kilometers (14 miles).

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

Lithuania is notable for its many rivers as well as its numerous lakes; the country has 758 rivers that each are longer than 10 kilometers (6 miles). Only 600 kilometers (372 miles) of the country's rivers are navigable, however. The Neman is the longest river, entering the country from Belarus in the south and flowing for roughly 475 kilometers (295 miles) within Lithuania before entering the Baltic Sea. The total length of the Neman River is 936 kilometers (582 miles). It forms the border with Russian Kaliningrad along its lower course.

Other significant rivers include the Neris, 510 kilometers (316 miles); the Venta, 346 kilometers (215 miles); and the Šešupẹ, 298 kilometers (185 miles).

Like its northern neighbor, Latvia, Lithuania has many marshes and swamps. Most of the country's original wetlands, however, have been drained for agriculture. Remaining wetlands are located mostly in the north and west.

8 DESERTS

There are no desert regions in Lithuania.

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

About 28 percent of Lithuania's land was still covered by forest as of 2002, with patches of woodlands scattered throughout the country. The coastal region and the south favor pines, while oak trees predominate in the central region, although they are relatively scarce. Mushrooms and berries are abundant. Lithuania has set aside large forested areas as nature reserves, which support many species of wildlife. Mammals living here include elk, deer, wolves, foxes, and wild boar; bird species include white storks, herons, geese, ducks, and hawks.

There are hills and uplands on either side of Lithuania's central plain. In the west is the Žemaičai Upland. To the southeast are the Baltic Highlands, including the Ašmena Highland. None of these hills are very tall. The highest elevation, Juozapinẹ (292 meters/958 feet), is situated in the southeast region on the border of Belarus.

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

There are no major mountain ranges or volcanoes in Lithuania.

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

Lithuania has no major caves or canyons.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

There are no plateau regions in Lithuania.

DID YOU KNOW?

In the northern Birzai region of Lithuania, a high gypsum and limestone content in the local terrain, plus the existence of numerous underground rivers, has caused the occurrence of over two thousand sinkholes. The water underground erodes the soil and rock above, causing the ground to cave in. The sinkholes range in size from very small holes to large, deep craters. The larger sinkholes may be filled with water from the underground rivers. Scientists are studying the sinkholes in this area to determine possible ways to counteract such erosion.

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

The Kaunas Dam was built on the Neman River to provide hydroelectric power. Construction of the dam created a reservoir called the Kaunas Sea. Several other dams have been built throughout the country for water storage, irrigation, and flood control. The reservoirs created by these dams are also used for fishing and recreation.

DID YOU KNOW?

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, three countries located on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, are often politically referred to as the Baltic States. These three nations became independent countries in 1918, after World War I, but were involuntarily incorporated into Russia as provinces in 1940. They became fully independent again in 1991. Although Sweden, Finland, and Poland also border on the Baltic Sea, Sweden and Finland are culturally and socially grouped as Scandinavian countries, while Poland is more closely associated with eastern Europe.

14 FURTHER READING

Books

Bite, Vita. "Lithuania: Basic Facts." CRS Report for Congress . Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1992.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Lithuania . Lonon: The Economist, 1995.

Grabowski, John F. The Baltics. San Diego: Lucent Books, 2001.

Lithuania: An Economic Profile . Washington, DC: United States National Technical Information Service, August 1992.

World Bank. Lithuania: The Transition to a Market Economy . Washington, DC: World Bank, 1993.

Periodicals

Pakalnis, Romas. "The Future of Lithuanian Nature Is the Future of Lithuania." Science, Arts, and Lithuania , No. 1(1991): 16-21.

Web Sites

Lithuanian Folk Culture Center, The Lithuanians. http://www.lfcc.lt/publ/thelt/node4.html (accessed April 24, 2003).

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