Fun Facts about Lithuania

For a tiny country way off at the edge of Europe, Lithuania has some pretty impressive claims to fame. You’ve probably even seen a few of their athletes on TV, with those long names full of endless consonant strings and funny accent marks. Want to learn more? How about perusing some fun and interesting facts about Lithuania?

It’s regained its independence and has been growing fast, rejoining the Western world, and moving higher up on the backpacker radar ever year. So let’s learn a thing or two, shall we?

Kaunas church, Lithuania
Majestic church structures in Kaunas.

History

  • Lithuania used to be huge. Back in the 1400s it was one of the biggest countries in Europe, whose territory included most of modern-day Belarus and western Ukraine. It even teamed up with Poland to form the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth for a few hundred years, until it was carved up by surrounding European powers.
  • The first school dates back to 1387, at Vilnius Cathedral.
  • Lithuania had a brief history of independence after WWI, but was soon incorporated into the Soviet Union, followed by Nazi conquest, and Soviet conquest again.
  • This tiny country was the first to declare independence from the Soviet Union in 1990, leading the way for other countries to break free from the USSR soon after.
  • Lithuania’s economy was the fastest growing in Europe throughout much of the 2000s, though the global economic crisis of 2008 did some damage.
  • Lithuania only ever had a single king: Mindaugas, who united the tribes and established a monarchy, but was assassinated a few decades later.
Gediminas Tower, Vilnius, Lithuania
Once a military fortification, Gediminas Tower is one of the last remnants of an old castle, in Vilnius.

Culture

  • Of all the Baltic states, Lithuanians are most closely related to Latvians, rather Estonians, who are more Nordic than Baltic. Even so, Lithuanians and Latvians aren’t very closely related.
  • Of all Indo-European languages, Lithuanian is considered to have changed the least over the years, and is thus valuable for the study of linguistic development.
  • In their own language, the country is called Lietuva.
  • Due to its former Soviet history, Lithuania is multicultural, though not quite as much as the other countries in the Baltic region. Ethnic Lithuanians comprise about 84% of the population, with Russians and Poles accounting for most of the rest.
  • The colors of the Lithuanian flag are the same colors as a stoplight. Not the same order, though.
  • Though Lithuania has experienced quite a few periods of Russification and other attempts to marginalize its culture, the language and other practices managed to survive, thanks to smuggled books and secret home schooling practices.
  • Basketball is the country’s national sport, and the team is ranked third worldwide. Several players have even joined the NBA.
  • In Lithuania, the Easter Bunny doesn’t bring you Easter eggs. Easter Granny does. If you think that’s weird, remember that she’s the only one of those two with opposable thumbs.
  • Though Christianity has existed there for hundreds of years, many old-fashioned pagan traditions still exist, often integrated into the Christian proceedings.
  • Lithuania is the only country in the world with its own official scent, called the Scent of Lithuania.
  • Lithuania––yes, little Lithuania––has the fastest internet speeds in the world, as of 2011.
Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
One of Lithuania’s most famous sites, the Hill of Crosses. Read about it here.

Nature

  • Forest covers 1/3 of the country, including many protected regions and national parks.
  • Lithuania is one of several countries vying for recognition as containing the geographical center of Europe, just north of Vilnius.
  • The national bird is the stork, as many of them make their homes in the rural areas of the country.
Computer, hanging from a tree, in a national park in Lithuania. Really? Really.
Don’t worry, they’re a little more high-tech than you see here.

Famous Lithuanians

  • Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis was an internationally known composer, who created 200 pieces of music during his relatively brief life.
  • Several Lithuanians have become NBA players, though perhaps most famous is Arvydas Sabonis, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
  • Žydrūnas Savickas has won the World’s Strongest Man competition, and also happens to be the most decorated strength competitor of all time. They call him Big Z.
  • Famous second-generation Lithuanians include the founder of Zemaitis guitars, and Anthony Kiedis. Sean Penn has some ancestry from there as well.
Folk festival in Lithuania
Folk festivals are popular, and Lithuania has a rich history of folk music and traditions.

Have fun in Lithuania!

So now that you know a few fun facts about Lithuania, you’ll probably want to visit someday. Don’t worry about pronouncing those names, though. You’ll never be able to do it, and they speak enough English and are friendly enough that it’ll all be okay.

About SnarkyNomad

Eytan is a pretentious English major whose rant-laden sarcastic tirades occasionally include budget travel tips and other international nonsense. You can follow his every narcissistic word on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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17 Comments on “Fun Facts about Lithuania”

  1. Lithuania is fun, but it’s been a decade since my visit. Great info here (e.g. NBA) and I’m glad you mention the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – being Polish, I like this part of our history and I was happy to see some Polish touches in Vilnius. Really cool post.

    1. I met an American of Lithuanian descent, and apparently people confused Polish people with Lithuanians, which I thought was weird. How could Americans think Lithuanians were Polish if Americans don’t even know what Lithuania is?

      1. yes for sure, i live in London, and most of the times they do confuse me with polish people although im pure Lithuanian, it is kind of weird

  2. Bulls***t.. Belarus, Poland, Prusia, and any other involved countries were never a part of Lithuania, as the only little bunch of people who lived in Kaunas and current North Lithuania area spoke Lithuanian in those times. Vilnius was half Polish half Belarussian, the rest of “their” land was completely different cultures and it is historically and ethically incorrect to say that Lithuania was ever biggest country in Europe as it never was. This fact was made up right after Lithuania became independent (after Soviet Union) and came only from Lithuania, all other Lithuanian “occupied” countries never agreed to this.

    1. Even that occupied countries have never agreed on that, the fact is that during the 14th-15th centuries lithuanians have controlled lands up to the border with Principality of Moldova (wich also was under the polish influence)..so yeah, it was one of the biggest countries in Europe back then.

    2. Ina, By your argument, the Roman Empire was really only in present-day central Italy, the Persian Empire was never beyond present-day Iran, Alexander never expanded his empire beyond Macedonia, the Teutonic knights never ruled the Prussians, etc, etc. In truth alliances and wars link peoples, sometimes by agreement, sometimes by force. Such was the case with ancient Lithuania. There was much Rus cooperation in support of the Lithuanian Grand Dukes and much intermarriage amongst the ruling Lithuanian & Rus ruling classes. Eventually, Muscovy (later Russia) gained the upper hand and Russia took over Lithuania in 1795.

    3. U r bulls**t Lithuania was big in 1400 do u understand how long time ago was That!????!?!?? At That time belarussia were not ecixting! Dont say what u dont know. R u from past that u know what’s happend ? If no then reed history books and u will see that Lithuanian land was from Baltic Sea till Black Sea. And Vilnius was occupied by polish and Russians so don’t tell me that it is polish land cos it is bullsh*t. It was occupied for few years only. It doesn’t make polish owners of Vilnius only that it belonged to them for few years. Poland Lithuania Latvia Estonia and other Soviet Union occupied country’s are not Russians anymore so stop saying that Vilnius belongs to Poland.

  3. I had a classmate whose last name is Dambruscas, and none of our professors were able to prounonce it properly, although i find it very easy and sounds actually very good : ) ( i’m from Moldova)

    1. I had a class of Taiwanese students, and trying to pronounce their Chinese names was just a disaster for me. They all sound nice when pronounced correctly, though!

  4. Žydrūnas Savickas has won the World’s Strongest Man competition, and also happens to be the most decorated strength competitor of all time. They call him Big Z.

    The Big Z is Zydrunas Ilgauskas and he is the basketball player not the World’s Strongest Man.

  5. i had to go to the doctors because of tonsillitis and the doctor tought i was polish a lot of people think us lithuanians are polish xD

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