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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Lithuania

Lithuania Hot Air Balloons

Lithuania is a Baltic state on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. If you want to know more about this interesting place? We bring you the 10 things you didn’t know about Lithuania.

10: Suicide

Lithuania has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. It ranks fourth behind a few other countries and occupying the number one spot in Europe. Unlike other countries that were former Eastern Bloc members. And Poland which is extremely Catholic and religious and thus naturally insulated against suicide. Unlike them, Lithuania has neither to protect itself against this tragic human phenomenon. When the Soviet Union was officially dissolved in 1991, each country that was formerly a member went down its own path. And Lithuania has never really been able to recover from its past. Add to this, other events such as the Russian financial crisis of 1998 which had negative effects on the Lithuanian economy and get a pretty bleak picture.

The causes of Lithuanian suicidal reported being mostly related to economic and social occurrences. Recent statistics show that it is mostly men who kill themselves with women trailing far behind. But still adding up to a staggering total. For example, in 2009, 952 men killed themselves, but only 186 women did. Adding up to a total of 1138 suicide deaths. This gives Lithuania a small total population of 2.856 million people; this number is fairly high. It might be a dubious honor, but Lithuania still has the honor of being the most suicidal nation in Europe. Which is nothing to sneeze at?

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9: Ethnic Minorities

Because of Lithuania’s unique history, there are large numbers of ethnic minorities that maintain a sizeable presence. Despite the fact that the historical circumstances that gave rise to their presence are no longer in place. The two largest minority populations in Lithuania are Poles and Russians. Poles have a long history of inhabiting the area of Lithuania, which goes back to the great Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth. Russians have had a strong presence since the inception of the Soviet Union, and many remain in Lithuania to this day.

According to a 2011 census, Poles and Russians made up 6.6% and 5.8% of the population respectively. Which is fairly substantial. In the case of the Russians, the Soviet influence was so great. As a result, around 80% of Lithuanian population speaks Russian, in addition to Lithuanian to this day. Russians, however, tend to be far less proficient in Lithuanian in reverse though. Unfortunately, and one wonders whether they even realize they are living in a different country.

8: Europe’s Bloodiest Guerrilla War

While western Europe was able to breathe a sigh of relief after the defeat of the Nazis and Allied powers during World War II. Between the years 1944 and 1953, Lithuanians waged, what was probably the bloodiest campaign of guerrilla warfare in the history of modern Europe. During these years, fortitude innocent, brave Lithuanians strove with their utmost against the brutal occupying forces of the Soviet Union and their puppet states in the Eastern Bloc.

Despite the vast superiority in terms of numbers, technology, and arms, Lithuanians were able to fight them for years before finally crumbling to the sheer weight of Soviet forces. Over 30,000 men died in direct combat against the Soviet forces. Hundreds of thousands of others were deported to Soviet gulags, where they died in horror and isolation. Not many people talk about this dark chapter of Lithuanian history, but given the fierceness of the conflict, there’s just no way around mentioning the worst guerrilla war in modern European history.

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7: Stork

The national bird of Lithuania is the Stork, and all the countries in Europe Lithuania have one of the largest Stork populations. More specifically the highest nesting density in the world for this bird. The Stork was declared the national bird in 1973. Many Lithuanians somewhat superstitiously believe that the Stork brings luck in harmony to families near which they rest and make nests. Stork day is celebrated on March 25th and is accompanied by the giving of many gifts in the form of chocolates, pencils, dyed eggs and other oddities that are often hung from the branches of trees and fences, and straw fires are lit. Many of these rituals are centuries old, and the preservation of this tradition is important for the maintenance of Lithuanian culture and tradition.

6: Lithuanian Cuisine

The key feature of Lithuanian food is the fact that it exists in harmony with the cool and moist climate of the country. Popular foods include barley, beats, greens berries, potatoes, rye and mushrooms. Which is virtually all home-grown and some of the dishes that arise from this food culture are yuca, which is blood soup and can be made from chicken, duck or goose blood, cucumber and cabbage soup borscht or cold summer soup of many different sorts. Zrazy a meet roulade and sweets as well, such as Šimtalapis, which is a super sweet poppy seed roll that is uniquely Lithuanian. Hale and hearty are the way to go when it comes to the strong Baltic cuisine of Lithuania.

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5: National Parks

A great deal of Lithuania is heavily forested. Indeed, over one third of the country is covered in thick temperate climate style trees, that house a surprising array of animals. Including such unusual ones such as brown bears, wolves, pygmy shrews, hedgehogs, and more. What is important to note about Lithuania is that the population tends to be the densest around the city and other urban areas, which means there’s a lot of wild open space. For this reason, there are several national parks dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and plant life. All of which was established, after Lithuania was freed from Soviet rule. Which really makes you wonder the Soviets ever really cared about the animals much, well probably not.

4: Romuva

Although Lithuania has been a Christian nation for many centuries, perhaps more than any other European country, it has maintained many of its pagan roots. Perhaps in the same sense that their language is ancient, Lithuania’s approach to Christianity is also ancient, incorporating many ancient rituals and customs, that was present before Lithuania’s conversion to Christianity in 1387. In fact, one of the great movements afoot in Lithuania is called Romuva. Which is an attempt to recapture elements of ancient Baltic pagan religion at its core Romuva is about nature worship? With some incorporation of ancestor worship asserting the sanctity of nature as its primary tenant. The late great Jonas Trinkūnas founded Romuva. He was Lithuanian ethnologist in folklorist and was able to do the bulk of his work in the post-Soviet era. Which lead to Romuva’s relative popularity today.

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3: Lithuanian Internet

It might be a touch of magic, maybe some of those Baltic pagan spirits. But for reasons seemingly unknown to most mortals, Lithuania has incredibly fast internet. According to a study by Oakland net metrics. Lithuania had the second fastest internet download and fastest upload speed in the world in June 2013. In 2013, at least two ISP’s in Lithuania offered download speeds of up to 300mb/s, for home users. Additionally, Lithuania has the highest level of fiber optic internet penetration in Europe. One does have to wonder with all the other problems Lithuania has. Why there would be so much focus on the internet.

2: Lithuanian Language

The Lithuanian language belongs the Baltic branch of Indo-European languages, with the other one being Latvian. They are the only modern representatives of this branch. The Baltic languages are far more distantly related to the Slavic languages, and even more distantly to other Indo European. However, Lithuanians have something going for it that most other Indo-European languages do not.

Structurally, Lithuania retains many features that were probably present in the oldest forms of Indo European. Which is the theoretical parent language of all modern Indo-European languages? Some scholars even believe Lithuanian to be the oldest language in the entire world. Not many people speak Lithuanian, but this feature can certainly be its claim to fame.

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1: Hot Air Balloons of Lithuania

Lithuania has more hot air balloons per resident than any other country in the world. Strange as it might sound, there are few activities as popular in Lithuania as riding hot air balloons. It is perhaps the most popular tourist attraction for visitors to the country. No one really knows why Lithuanians have this affinity for hot air balloons. But it sure does make them stand out and fly high.

That’s it people, 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Lithuania. What are the other things you know about Lithuania? Let us Know in the Comments below.

Written by Zeeshan Haider

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