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Flag of Lithuania.svg
Coat of arms of Lithuania.svg

Lithuania ( LITH-ew-AY-nee-?; Lithuanian: Lietuva [lt?'v?]), officially the Republic of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos Respublika), is a country in the Baltic region of Europe. Lithuania is considered to be one of the Baltic states. The country is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russian exclave) to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 2.8 million people , and its capital and largest city is Vilnius. Other major cities are Kaunas and Klaip?da. Lithuanians are Baltic people. The official language, Lithuanian, is one of only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family, the other being Latvian.

For centuries, the southeastern shores of the Baltic Sea were inhabited by various Baltic tribes. In the 1230s, the Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas and the Kingdom of Lithuania was created on 6 July 1253. During the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe; present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia were the territories of the Grand Duchy. With the Lublin Union of 1569, Lithuania and Poland formed a voluntary two-state personal union, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Commonwealth lasted more than two centuries, until neighbouring countries systematically dismantled it from 1772 to 1795, with the Russian Empire annexing most of Lithuania's territory.

As World War I neared its end, Lithuania's Act of Independence was signed on 16 February 1918, declaring the founding of the modern Republic of Lithuania. In the midst of the Second World War, Lithuania was first occupied by the Soviet Union and then by Nazi Germany. As World War II neared its end and the Germans retreated, the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania. On 11 March 1990, a year before the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, Lithuania became the first Baltic state to declare itself independent, resulting in the restoration of an independent State of Lithuania.

Welles declaration, July 23, 1940

The Welles declaration was issued on July 23, 1940 by acting United States Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles. The declaration condemned the Soviet Union's forcible incorporation of the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and announced a U.S. refusal to recognize the legitimacy of Soviet control of the three states. It was an application of the Stimson Doctrine to the Baltic issue.The declaration was consistent with Franklin D. Roosevelt's overall attitude towards forcible territorial expansion, and reflected the views held by the highest levels of the Roosevelt administration.

The Welles Declaration established a decades-long non-recognition of the Baltic States' forcible annexation. The document had major significance for overall U.S. policy toward Europe in the critical year of 1940. Subsequent U.S. presidents and Congressional resolutions reaffirmed the substance of the Welles declaration. The Baltic states re-established their independence in 1990. (continue...)

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Stelmu Oak is one of the oldest oak trees in Europe


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