The Country

Basic facts

Czech Republic

The Largest Cities


Vilnius  541,100 (2004)
542,300 (2001)
Kaunas  366,700 (2004)
379,000 (2001)
Klaipeda  189,500 (2004)
193,000 (2001)
Šiauliai  130,500 (2004)
133,900 (2001)


The Country

The  country can be divided into six regions: the lowland plain areas (the coast, the central and eastern plains) and the highlands (Zemaiciai, Baltic and Medininkai). The highest points Juazapine at 294 m.a.s.l. and Kruopine at 293 m.a.s.l. are found in the eastern part of the country. 

Lithuania belongs to the region of accumulation of continental glaciations and lies on the margin of the latest one.

The county is rich in minerals and sedimentary rocks, e.g. anhydride, dolomite, limestone, clay, sand, gravel, gypsum, chalk and also oil and mineral water.

The climate is transitional between maritime and continental. The average temperature of January is -4.8 °C in Ignalina. The average temperatures of July ranges from 16.5 °C in Klaipeda to 17.6 °C in Kaunas. The mean annual precipitation ranges from 540 mm in the Middle Lowlands to 930 mm on the southwest slopes of the Zemaitija Uplands.

Three main regions of vegetation are found. At the coast and in the south pine forests predominate. In the sand dunes grow also wild rye and various bushy plants. In the hilly east spruce trees dominate. the central region is characterized by large tracts of  oak trees with birch forests in the northern portions, as well as distinctive black alder and aspen groves. About 25% of the entire county is forested, while another 20% are meadows. Swamps and marshes cover roughly 7% of the total area.

Wildlife is diverse, with about 60 species of mammals. The bird fauna is also rich and the total number of species recorded approaches 300.

There are 722 rivers (>10 km long) the most important ones are the Nemunas and Neris. There are about 4,000 lakes (>1,0 ha) the largest on is Lake Drušiai (44.8 km2).  Most of the country (72%) belong to the drainage basin of the river Nemunas (Neman), which fall into the Kursiu marios (Curonian lagoon) and later into the Baltic Sea. Compared to the other Baltic states Lithuania has the shortest coast line; 99 km.



Of the population 32% live in the countryside. The largest population increase in post-war Lithuania was during the 1970's when the growth rate was about 1.2% annually. In the 1980's the growth rate stabilized at 0.8-0.9% annually. Since 1990 the population growth rate has slowed down and since 1992 it has decreased.

In 1995 the population composition was: Lithuanians 81%, Russians 8.4%, Polish 7.0%, Belarusians 1.5%, Ukrainians 1.0%, Jews and other ethnic groups 0.7%. 

The number of emigrants was highest during 1989 but has decreased since then.

The mortality rate among males has increased and average life expectancy for men is 4.2 years shorter since 1989. For women life expectancy has decreased by 1.4 years during the same time so that the difference in life expectancy between women and men now is at 12.1 years.



The GDP decreased considerably after independence. However, now it is increasing and during 1997 GDP grew by 6%. Inflation rate during the last years has decreased considerably.

In the ongoing privatization program the privatization of 8,057 enterprises was carried out in February 1998. Of all objects included in the program 85% are now privately owned.

Food and drink manufacturing produces more than 30% of all industrial output. Other important industries are: oil and oil products, chemical industry, textile, sewing and fur, radio and TV devices, construction materials and machinery.

In 1997 the export was 15.3 billion Litas and import was 22.4 billion Litas. The largest part of the export fell on Russia, Latvia, Belarus and Ukraine. Only about 25% was to the western countries and then especially Germany.

The main export commodities are dairy products, wood and wood products, iron and steel, liqueurs and other spirits, meat, TV sets and electrical energy.

Main import commodities include natural gas, iron and steel, plastic articles, cotton fiber and edible fruits and nuts.

The implementation of economic reform and the search for a suitable transition model towards marker economy is still going on. Demonopolization of industry and agriculture and development of the banking system is still in progress.

The national currency, the Litas, was introduced in July 1993, it is pegged to the US dollar (1 USD = 4 Litas) since March 1994. 

The average monthly earnings in 1996, before tax, was 621 Litas.

In January 1997 un-employment was 5.9% down from 7.1% the year before.



Overall energy consumption in 1994 by sector was 32% in industry, 33% in households, 13.5% in transport, 13% in public and private services, 5% in agriculture and another 3.5% was used for other purposes.

A distinguishing feature of the present energy production system is a surplus of electrical power. According to a long-term decision the reactors at Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant will be closed in the year 2008.



In 1995 approximately 300 million m3 of untreated waste water was discharged, only 26% of the amount was sufficiently treated.  

The main cause of surface and ground water contamination is insufficient treatment of municipal and industrial waster water as well as non-point source pollution. 

Surface water quality is monitored by performing water quality analyses in 47 rivers and 9 lakes. In 43% of the monitored rivers water was found to be clean, in 48% polluted at medium levels and in 9% heavily contaminated.

About 85% of the Kursiu lagoon and 45% of the Baltic Sea coastal waters are heavily polluted with nitrogen and phosphorous. 

Ground water pollution has been detected in nearly 30% of the territory. About 800,000 people consume water from wells where NO2 levels exceed permitted limits.

In recent years air pollution has decreased. However, problems such as acid rain, ozone layer depletion and climate change are found in Lithuania too. The biggest source of air pollution, and increasing, is emissions from transports, i.e. motor vehicles.

The other main source of air pollution are industrial centers and cities: Vilnius, Kaunas, Mazeikiai, Kedainiai and Jonava. The pollution from stationary sources tend to decline. However, since 1995 emissions from some industries have increased as a result of increased production.

High concentrations of heavy metals and oil products in the soil is sometimes found especially in industrial areas, near highways and in former Soviet Union military sites.

Radioactive wastes are accumulated at Ignalina NPP. Used fuel is stored in reservoirs near the reactors. Solid radioactive wastes are stored in specially designed storage facilities. Waste water sludge containing radioactive nuclides is stored in a quarry. Smaller amounts of radioactive wastes generated by hospitals, industries, research institutions and companies are stored at the same place.


According to the Baltic Sea Joint Comprehensive Environmental Action Programme (JCP) 16 individual sources of emissions or activities were identified as particularly serious, hot-spots, in Lithuania.

The majority of the hot-spots (14) are municipal point sources. The other two are the high agricultural runoff and the Curonian lagoon.


Linas Kliucininkas

Read more:
CIA Factbook: Lithuania
GeoHive: Lithuania
Wikipedia: Lithuania

A long pedestrian street runs through central Kaunas

Old house
in old Kaunas