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Background Information | Lithuania |

Lithuania Background Information Historical Development Immigrant and Foreign Population Flight and Asylum Integration of Minorities Irregular Migration Current Development References and Further Reading

Background Information

Benjamin Brake

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Lithuania, the biggest of the three Baltic States, borders Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and Poland and the Russian oblast Kaliningrad to the south. It therefore lies on the eastern border of the EU, to which it was admitted in 2004.

Lithuania (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

Until it achieved independence in 1990, the country had last existed as a state between 1918 and 1940. Like the two other Baltic republics, it suffered for a long time as a result of its particular geographical position, which brought it under the alternating spheres of influence and interest of Germany and the Soviet Union. In the course of successive occupations, first by Soviet and then by German troops, as well as after the territory was annexed by the USSR in 1940, there were mass expulsions and deportations of parts of the resident population. This affected in particular the educated elite and members of ethnic minorities. The end of the Second World War was marked by the expulsion of Baltic Germans and the resettlement in Lithuanian territory of ethnic groups from the Soviet Union.

Background InformationLithuania

Capital: Vilnius
Official language: Lithuanian
Area: 65 000 km2
Population (2006): 3 403 000
Population density: 53 inhabitants per km2
Population growth (1997-2004): -3.96 %
Labour force participation rate: 69.1 % (Eurostat)
Foreign population as a percentage of total (2006): 1.04 % (35 300 persons)
Unemployment rate: 8.3 % (2005); 11.4 % (2004); 12.4 % (2003)
Religions (2001): 30 religions represented in the census;
79 % Catholics, 4 % Russian Orthodox, 0.8 % Protestant Ethnic groups (2001): Lithuanian (83.5 %), Polish (6.7 %), Russian (6.3 %), Belarusian (1.2 %)

After 1991 new migration patterns arose. Exiled Lithuanians returned and resettled ethnic groups began to depart. On the other hand, since the state opened up towards the West, there has also been an increase in labour emigration, which has been expressed in consistently negative net migration levels.

Since 2004, Lithuania's eastern border has also been the external border of the EU, and Lithuania has been trying to overcome the difficulties arising from its role as a destination, source and, above all, transit country for legal and irregular international migration.


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Benjamin Brake is studying sociology at the Otto Friedrich University in Bamberg. His main areas of interest are European integration and the sociology of migration and integration. Following a one-year stay in Lithuania, he is currently employed by the university's Professor of Socio-Scientific European Studies.