COUNTRY OF STUDY
Lithuania is one of three countries on the edge of the Baltic Sea. Along with Estonia and Latvia they are known as ‘the Baltic States’ and have similar geography, climates and a shared history. They are tucked into fertile, low lying ground between the massive bulk of Russia to the North-East and Poland to the South. Belarus is on their eastern border and the shallow 97km coastline of the Baltic Sea on the West.
The flag was officially designated in 1918, and was re-instituted in 1988. Yellow represents the sun, light, and goodness, green symbolizes the beauty of nature, freedom, and hope, and red stands for the land, courage, and the blood spilled for Lithuania.
Lithuania is the southernmost of the states and the warmest. The country consists mainly of lowlands, criss-crossed with rivers and dotted with lakes. The highest point is barely 300metres high. Lithuania’s foremost attraction is its stunning Baltic coastline, especially the unique sliver of white sand known as Curonian Spit. Lonely coastal wetlands lure migrating birds by the tens of thousands while inland, lush forests watch over burnished lakes. Further afield there are remnants of Soviet times – a disused nuclear missile site (now a museum to the Cold War) and a Soviet sculpture park – are reminders of a dark recent past, while the Hill of Crosses and Orvydas stone garden stand testament to the land’s enduring faith.
A brief history – Lithuania is the only Baltic country with more than eight hundred years of statehood tradition and its name was first mentioned one thousand years ago, in 1009. Wedged at the dividing line of Western and Eastern civilizations, Lithuania battled dramatically for its independence and survival. Once in the Middle Ages (15th century), Lithuania was the largest state in the entire continent of Europe, where crafts and overseas trade prospered. Amber was valued more highly than gold.
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania had been part of the Russian Empire since the end of the 18th century, but after the Russian Revolution of 1917 they became independent states. The capital, Vilnius, is a beguiling artists’ enclave, its timeworn courtyards, cobbled streets and baroque churches animated by the vibrant, optimistic culture of today.
Amber (Lith. gintaras), has been around on this earth for millions and millions of years, and we know that it is one of the world’s most fascinating semi- precious stones, with a long historical background. It is found on the Baltic Sea shores, was and is highly treasured and is the national gem of Lithuania. The art of Lithuanian cross crafting was acknowledged as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001 by UNESCO. The Hill of Crosses, containing thousands of crosses of all sizes, is the best known pilgrimage site in Lithuania.