Lithuania is a small piece of land at the Baltic Sea in the geographical centre of Europe. On the map of Europe Lithuania can hardly catch your attention, because its area is only 65,000 sq. km. The borders of our country stretch for more than 1800 km. In the North it borders Latvia, in the East and in the South Belorussia, in the South – West Poland and the Kaliningrad Region of the Russian Federation. The amber coastline with beautiful whitish beaches stretches for 99 km of the country’s West failor. The failor is decorated by Kuršiai spit dunes, Sudūva high-yielding fields, Dzūkija lakes, wide plains, melancholy forests, pine-trees on a sandy soil. You may observe a carpet of fields spotted with blue lakes, wrinkled hills and sites of ancient towns so sweet to everybody’s glance and heart. Hidden villages, small towns and cities cling close to rivers, lakes. The Eastern Aukštaitija is the land lovely created by nature. It’s the kingdom of lakes and woods. In Lithuania there are over 4,000 lakes, ponds and more than 700 rivers. The longest river is the Nemunas. It’s called the father of Lithuanian rivers. There are many songs about the Nemunas. The other longest river is the Neris. It has the right tributary called the Lietava. It is believed, that Lithuania got its name from this stream. It flows about 25 km from the little town of Kernavė, an important political centre of ancient Lithuania, in the eastern part of our republic. Lithuania was first mentioned in 1009. Vilnius is the capital and the largest city of our country. It was first mentioned as the capital in the letters of Gediminas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, in 1323. Vilnius is famous for its architectural monuments and its university, which was established in 1579. Lithuania was occupied by the Russians twice, but the country of nowadays is like the part of Western Europe. Lithuania looks better than other countries from Eastern Europe and the financial position of it is better too.
A lot of tourists, who find our republic themselves, want to know it better.
Lithuania’s past is rich and marked by complexity. In the multitude of events, and their uniqueness and effect on neighbouring nations, Lithuania can be compared to any large state. Perhaps, this is the reason why Lithuanians hold their history in great esteem. A Lithuanian engaged in an explanation of the present will often digress into historical comparisons and analogies. The legends, wars, battles and political events are intertwined with songs, have found their way into literary works, and have provided the inspiration for movies, plays and art works. Of course, these popular and artistic representations are sometimes hardly different from mythology. But who is to deny that mythology is a part of life?
Principal climatic features of Lithuania are determined by interaction of solar radiation and atmosphere circulation with lower layer. Average amount of sunshine annually received by the territory of Lithuania is 85 kkal/cm2 or 3370 MJ/m2. Average annual radiation balance is equal to 37 kkal/cm2, average annual air temperature is about +6oC and average annual precipitation level is 620 mm. Seasonal fluctuations of radiation balance are reflected by average monthly temperature (from –3 … –6oC in January to +16.5 … + 17.5oC in July) and precipitation level (from 25 – 40 mm in March – April to 70 – 100 mm in July – August).
Average climatic differences are determined by both continental and oceanic factors. Annual range of average monthly temperatures, the further from the Baltic sea, goes up from 18 to 24oC. Continental air masses changing the sea air masses, diversified with arctic and subtropical air mass invasion, are the cause of short-term temperature and wind regime fluctuations. Average daily temperature fluctuation in Lithuania ranges from 1.5oC (in August) to 2,5oC (in January – February), with maximum leaps up to 10oC and even 20oC in winter.
Climate formation processes are in major extent fed by solar energy.
Circulation conditions are determined by cyclones and anti – cyclones in Lithuania. Calculations showed that the territory of Lithuania annually is effected by cyclones for 95 days and by anti – cyclones for 117 days in average.
The effect made by relief is most powerful in summer, by the sea – in winter. Temperature distribution according to longitude is most conspicuous in spring and autumn. Under the effect of relief, temperature sums in ravines and northern slopes are lower and in southern slopes are higher by 50-100oC.
Cultivation of plants grown under warm conditions is restricted by the dates of the last spring and early autumn frosts.
Soil temperature, apart from the causes mentioned above, also depends on granulometric soil composition and dampness. Deeper frozen ground is characteristic to dry and sandy loam soils, however, they thaw off earlier than damp clay loam soils. At the beginning of winter, frozen ground area is moving from the East to the West, the time difference being over 20 days. In spring, soil thaws off from the South West to the East in 10 days. Average depth of frozen ground in winter is 40 – 70 cm, heavy soils may reach 80 – 90 cm and light soils – 110 – 130 cm of frozen ground in individual years. The temperature of ploughed layer during vegetation period is higher than air temperature during the same period. In
autumn, the difference gets smaller. The deeper into the ground, the lower annual temperature amplitude. The coldest month at the depth of 3 metres under the ground is March (+4oC) and the warmest is September (+12oC).
Distribution of precipitation in different months is determined by the distance from the sea as well as highland exposure to humid winds. Precipitation is more abundant on the side of highlands facing the wind and more scarce in places sheltered from the wind. In summer precipitation level is higher in the eastern and in winter – in the western part of Lithuania. Maximum monthly precipitation level is higher than the average equal to 220 – 240%. Precipitation in liquid form makes up 75 %, in solid and mixed form – 25% of the annual level.
In average, the snow layer is present from the third decade of December to March. The layer may be up to 5 cm thick in the West and 20 – 25 cm in the North East. It thaws off in the third decade of March. Deviations of +/- 30 days are possible in individual years. In the forest, the snow layer is thicker by 120 – 130%, in glades – by up to 150%, than in the open field, where the snow is drifted in blizzards. The number of blizzards ranges from 10 in the West to 25 in the East. The snow layer may be temporarily destroyed during thaws.
Water vapour resilience ranges from 4,0 – 4,5 hPa (in January) to 14,2 – 15,1 hPa (in July). The further from the sea, the lower the value. In spring and in summer it also decreases the higher the area.
The change of relative humidity is in inverse proportion with air temperature fluctuation.
Annual evaporation ranges from 520 mm in highlands to 580 mm at the sea side. Evaporation during the vegetation period is equal to 390 – 420 mm. Local deviations from these values due to soil dampness and relief differences do not exceed +/- 50 mm.
Wind regime depends on pressure gradients in active sections. The prevailing wind direction depends on the season. Frequency of the prevailing winds blowing from the South West and South amounts to 25 – 30% in autumn and winter. In spring, the South wind is less frequent and the North West wind prevails. In summer western winds are dominant. At the sea-side, breezes that may change their direction throughout the day are met. Average annual wind speed at the Baltic coast is equal to 5,5 – 6,0 m/s, the further from the sea, the speed decreases down to 3,0 – 3,5 m/s. In summer, average wind speed is lower by 1 – 2 m/s than in winter. The frequency of stillness ranges from 0,5 – 11% (in January) to 1-18% (in July). In different areas, the wind highly depends on the degree of horizon openness. On top of hills or in slopes facing the wind, the wind speed is higher by 20 – 30% than in plains, meanwhile, in ravines and slopes sheltered from the wind it is as much lower. The wind speed changes during the day and during the year. The highest annual speed amounts to 16 – 20 m/s, at the sea-side it goes up to 22 – 26 m/s. The wind speed of 20 – 26 m/s (27 – 35 m/s at the sea-side) is possible once in 20 years. At the sea-side, the number of days of strong wind (> 15 m/s) amounts to 20 – 30, further from the sea, it goes down to 5 – 10 days per year.
Furthermore, I would like to add that the capital city of Vilnius cannot in any way have evolved apart from Lithuania. Vilnius is a Lithuanian city–being nearly 50% Lithuanian, as reported in LIETUVOS TSR ATLASAS (Lithuanian SSR Altas, Moscow, 1981). Only the environs of the Vilnius region and Salcininkai county are predominantly Polish. But what does Poland care about an isolated, non-contiguous language island? Does anyone again propose that Belarus invade and occupy eastern Lithuania? Historically, Grodno (Gardinas) was part of historical Lithuania. Perhaps Lithuania should expand again south across the Nemunas (Niemen) River?
In closing, historians will point out that ancient Baltic tribes occupied vast areas before the twelth century that today are Slavic. And until the 19th century, Lithuanians were native to the Vilnius region. No Polish colonization had ever taken place in Lithuania except for the period of Poland’s rule over eastern Lithuania from 1920-1939, when settlers were brought in. The history of the Vilnius area was always a part of the ancient Lithuanian state. Vilnius was in the heart of the Aukstaitija (Highland) area, the cradle of the Lithuanian state. It was the Lithuanian Grand Duke, Gediminas (1275-1341), who founded the new capital in 1323.
They say that a Lithuanian can be most easily recognised while working or day-dreaming. The foundations of the nation’s character were laid in ancient times, and were determined by the ecology, geographic location, politics, work characteristics and religious holidays. Lithunians should not be grouped among the dynamic or particularly expressive nations: traditionally, they are more inclined towards reserve, the family hearth and stubborn labour. Historically, Lithuanians are a nation of tillers of the soil, who have lived near the sea, but not along with it. Mythology reveals that the country is divided into three cultural regions, whose interrelationship is reminiscent of a tree: in the west one finds the roots, in the middle of Lithuania the trunk, and in the east, the branches. To the present day, Lithuania has preserved its previously-mentioned four ethnic groups. Each of them
its customs, clothing and songs, and in character as well. The dzukai, who live in the southeast, are the most expressive, the Zemaiciai, in the west, are the most reserved and most archaic. Earlier, this trait of the Zemaiciai had been to a large extent given mythological dimensions and even attributed to the entire Lithuanian nation by the neighbouring nations, particularly the Poles and the Germans. A romantic story, Lokys („The Bear“) by the French author Prosper Mйrimйe, set in superstitious and archaic Zemaitija (Samogitia), became widely known in 19th century Europe.
Natural disasters and wars and epidemics have tempered the „average“ Lithuanian, no less than the north and the sea have tempered the „average“ Scandinavian. Furthermore, one should not forget that Lithuanians were the last pagans in Europe, who officially embraced Christianity only at the end of the 14th century. Moreover, even in modern times, there exists an extremely emotional element in many religious customs.
The Lithuanian character also possesses the spontaneity characteristic of the European Slavs, and at times, even some irrationality. Most probably, our ancestors acquired these character traits during the Middle Ages, when they had to defend the land against various invaders from the west, and later from the east as well. The Lithuanians themselves also used to follow a warlike path.
In accepting the mass culture of the west, the people of modern Lithuania are also experiencing the pitfalls of excessively speedy modernisation.
The Lithuanian smile
God did not give a smile to states, however, people are smiling.
The people of Lithuania believe that their country is one of the most hospitable small corners of the world. They believe that and so they are smiling.
The Lithuanian language is one of the most archaic in Europe. Hearing our language for the first time, foreigners frequently say it sounds as if it were being chanted, not spoken. It has a clear and mobile musical stress, whereas the stress in many European languages is dynamic. Latvian, Serbo-Croatian and Slovenian resemble Lithuanian in their musical quality.
Lithuanian is a representative of the Baltic group of the Indo-European languages. Currently, only Latvian is closely related to it. Prussian, a member of the same family, disappeared along with the Prussian community, which had inhabited its own territory, the present day Kaliningrad Region, which was conquered by the Teutonic Orders during the Middle Ages and subsequently germanised.